Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Hispanic Literatures & Linguistics

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Albert Lloret

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | Latin American Literature | Other Film and Media Studies | Portuguese Literature | Spanish Literature | Women's Studies


This dissertation studies the representation of madness in the literary works of three twentieth-century authors, namely, João Guimarães Rosa (from Brazil), Silvina Ocampo (from Argentina), and Luis Martín-Santos (from Spain). The first chapter argues that madness in Ocampo’s “El castigo”, Rosa’s “Buriti”, and Martín-Santos, Tiempo de silencio, reveals a series of conflicts between tradition and modernity, rather than the alleged symptoms of an individual suffering from a mental illness. After comparing the three works, it is evident that the decisions of their characters reproduce certain values idealized by authoritarian cultures. The second chapter discusses Rosa’s “Substância”, Ocampo’s “La casa de azúcar”, and a reference to a Goya’s paintings in Tiempo de silencio, in which the image of a crazy woman is recurrent theme. Through a reading of Carlo Ginzburg’s Historia nocturna it is suggested the naturalization of this theme has an economic origin, since women have often been economically dependent and socially vulnerable. However, the three narratives subvert a status quo insofar as madness reveals a set of beliefs that permeate the subject of reason, who can identify madness in the other. To this end, it is examined the constitution of the subject, that is to say, how a subject becomes oneself. The central chapter of this dissertation, the third one, tackles the theme of the mirror in “O espelho” (by Rosa), “Cornelia frente al espejo” (by Ocampo) and Tiempo de silencio. Through this theme, the characters in these narratives call into question their existence and, especially, their own rationality. Both chapters 3 and 4 seek to underline the correlation between exclusion, identity, and narcissism in the authors examined, as well in our modern world. Last, the fifth chapter offers a comparative analysis of the short stories “Sorôco, sua mãe, sua filha” (by Rosa), and “El progreso de la ciencia” (by Ocampo), and Martín-Santos’s novel, in order to examine how those who are devoid of voice may be able to produce memory within other possible life norms. I argue that this literary correlation is not only aimed at denouncing social segregation, but also at exploring how the actual reasons for excluding the other are deep-seated within ourselves. This analysis, ultimately, makes emphasis on the pertinence of questions related to philosophy, psychoanalysis, and aesthetics to examining current world events, such as the under-representation of women in our postmodern society, the flow of immigrants into Europe in 2015, and narcissism in our capitalist society.