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Historical inscriptions: Black bodies in contemporary Puerto Rican narrative

Zaira O Rivera Casellas, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation addresses questions of the body that is imagined within contemporary Puerto Rican literature. Specifically, I focus on how the Afro-Puerto Rican body, as a site of artistic representation, articulates particular conceptions of history and narration in contemporary Puerto Rican culture. I have examined the texts of Luis Palés Matos, Isabelo Zenón, Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá and Beatriz Berrocal. In this study I argue that the literary embodiment of the Afro-Puerto Rican self is the crucial site where conflicting national discourses have been written and read, and as such demonstrates its ambivalent role in the struggles towards emancipation, citizenship and autonomy in the twentieth-century. Ultimately, the ways in which these texts construct relations based on the Afro-Puerto Rican experience have highlighted the inconsistencies, irregularities and upheavals that have characterized Puerto Rican literary, social and political history. Given the extent to which my approach is intertwined with other mainstream and marginal literary traditions, I have explored the historical and conceptual links of the chosen Puerto Rican texts with Caribbean, Latin American, and African-American literary traditions. By highlighting the Afro-Puerto Rican body and its cultural development, my examination reveals that one of the main intentions of this literary trend is to socially organize in the world of fiction the consciousness of the racial group. Stories of escape from bondage, redemptive suffering, and struggles of the weak against colonizing powers have led writers to particular ways of creating pseudo-autobiographical dramatizations of the Afro-Puerto Rican self. In fact, a consideration of Afro-Puerto Rican literature beyond just being about black themes can provide a reorientation for the analysis of contemporary Caribbean literary aesthetics. These are issues that my work will advance in the field of Afro-Hispanic and Latin American literatures.

Subject Area

Caribbean literature|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Rivera Casellas, Zaira O, "Historical inscriptions: Black bodies in contemporary Puerto Rican narrative" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110547.