U.S. Latina Theater: Scripting Feminine Subjectivity

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2016-05

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Abstract

Since the 1980s, U.S. Latina Theater has focused on presenting realistic portrayals of the feminine subject on stage. Such an undertaking by Latina playwrights has been to challenge to the representations of women in traditional male-centered and male-created theater. This dissertation studies the strategies and sites that playwrights Cherríe Moraga in The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea and Shadow of a Man, Odalys Nanín in The Nun and the Countess, Carmen Rivera in La Gringa, and Dolores Prida in Coser y Cantar employ to stage authentic feminine subjects. The plays are analyzed through the lens of three locales customarily imagined and structured by patriarchy: mythmaking, the traditional Chicano family hierarchy, and the subject’s quest to identity formation. By taking control of the pen, these Latinas displace the traditional organization and invert the power structure of said sites. In mythmaking, patriarchy has customarily punished the rebellious woman by depicting her as monstrous. This study takes the position that by reinventing myths, Latina playwrights expose the frailty of male-created myths that would vilify women and in turn have gained the authority of authorship, to the benefit of mythical feminine icons. Within the space of the plays, women freely explore themes that tradition expects them to accept without interrogation. Analysis of said themes employs the deconstruction of patriarchal institutions such as familial and Church hierarchies. The female protagonists make a quest to subjectivity construction, a luxury usually reserved for male protagonists. This dissertation suggests that a theory specific to female fiction is essential in reading the feminine journey to subjectivity. Consequently, the writings of Dana A. Heller have been adopted in the analysis of quest subjectivity construction.

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Keywords

Latina/o theater, Latina Subjectivity, Gender Construction, Latina identity, Identity construction

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