Research Degrees Completed since 2007

'Ana Castillo: Political Visions from the Periphery'

by Aileen Lee


Ana Castillo is a name synonymous worldwide with Chicana feminist writing.  Using her poetry as a political forum, Castillo’s poems work as literary resistance against the socially-imposed truisms, which she feels relegate the Chicano community to an inferior place racially, socially, culturally, economically and educationally. It is this political stance expressed through poetry that this thesis will address, focusing on her collections of poetry, My Father Was a Toltec and Selected Poems and I Ask the Impossible.



The title of this thesis, ‘Ana Castillo: Political visions from the periphery’, represents, in many ways, a logical approach to her poetry. The focus on the periphery reflects a concept frequently invoked in discussions about Chicano cultural production. History also plays a central role in Castillo’s poetry, most especially the historical misfortunes of the Mexican people and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Thus, this thesis will look at how history informs Castillo’s politics, and how in turn her politics inform her definitions of Chicana/o and indigenous identity.



Central to Castillo’s political vision is her insistence on the precarious nature of life on the margins for the majority of Chicano citizens in the US. Revealing this ugly side to US society again highlights the critical nature of her poetry. As a result, this thesis shows how Castillo writes these poems with a sense of urgency. Literature, then, is not a luxury for Castillo but rather functions as a tool of agency for her in the fight against oppression.



Highlighting and validating the Chicana/o vantage point has brought her much success as a fiction writer. It is no surprise, therefore, that the critics have neglected her poetry. Consequently, one of the objectives of this thesis is to respond to that gap in critical material and offer the reader the most cohesive critique available to date on the political nature of Ana Castillo’s poetry as a Chicana on the periphery of US mainstream society.


Fenced In: The Limits of the Female Self in the work of Brianda Domecq


by Lorraine Kelly


This thesis constitutes an exploration of the limits of the female Self in the literature of the Mexican author Brianda Domecq that traces the development of a philosophy of feminism through the work of the author. It is posited that the Judeo-Christian story of Adam and Eve and the Mexican story of origin, based on La Malinche, are exposed in Domecq’s work as the symbolic referents used to justify gender inequality in contemporary Mexico and the entrapment of the feminine within the inescapable limits on the female body. This interrogation of the complexities of female imprisonment and entrapment takes a psychoanalytical approach that draws on the work of both Mexican and European cultural theorists. This thesis comprehends a broadly foucauldian analysis of Domecq’s writing that focuses primarily on feminist theories of identity formation, with specific reference to the work of the Mexican critic, Estela Serret, in order to culturally contextualise Domecq’s critique of gender relations in contemporary Mexico. Michel Foucault’s three volume series, The History of Sexuality, and Octavio Paz’s El laberinto de la soledad, are posited as examples of two sources of psychoanalytical categorisation of woman that Domecq’s literature seeks to refute. This thesis contends that Domecq’s fiction exemplifies a much echoed, yet uncoordinated effort, to establish the possibility of a non-archetypal female subject within the national space. Domecq’s work is read as an exploration of the potential of the female Self to struggle for freedom from her patriarchal roots and create an alternative symbolic order and social structure. Domecq’s philosophy of feminism presents the patriarchal tool of confinement as: a) the internalisation of negative images of women in mythology; b) education; c) the imposition of silence; and d) humiliation.



Locura y feminidad

'Locura y feminidad: representaciones de la loca en la obra de Elena Garro, Susana Pagano, Ana Castillo y María Amparo Escandón'

by Ana Cruz Garcia


This thesis examines the figure of the madwoman in four novels, two Mexican and two Mexican-American, published in the 1990s. The ubiquitous presence of the madwoman in Mexican culture has not passed unnoticed; indeed, at the beginning of the twenty-first century the writer Edmée Pardo talks about the so-called imaginario de la enfermedad to refer to the ever-present images of sick women, namely the madwoman, in Mexican women’s literature. However, to date there is no critical study that explores the relevance of this presence and/or its different manifestations. This thesis aims to fulfil this critical gap and also explore the difficulties that women writers still face when trying to liberate their female protagonists. Thus, whilst all the texts coincide in presenting the madwoman as a figure of rupture with behaviours and spaces traditionally associated with the feminine, the methods employed to construct this figure respond to two different conceptions of madness. In Garro and Págano, the madwoman largely corresponds to the concept of the abject that Julia Kristeva presents in her ground-breaking book, Powers of Horror. The madwoman is presented as a fragmented being which, in attempting to escape from an oppressive patriarchal system, ends up destroyed/abjected by that same order. However, in Castillo and Escandón she is constructed in a more positive and visionary way, more in accordance with the idea of the New Mestiza that Gloria Anzaldúa develops in her writing Borderland/La frontera. Thus, the madwoman is presented as a more superior and rational being and madness represents a journey towards darkness which is nevertheless necessary in order to reach clarity and completeness.

'Identity in Recent Québécois and Mexican Cinema'

by Nicole Sigl


The interdependence of identity on a personal, local, national, and global level is what lies at the core of this thesis which examines the nature of the relationship between identity formation and cinematic representation. The central argument here is that national identity, in times of globalization, is often replaced by transnational identity which is represented in the films analyzed in this thesis primarily through the characterization of the protagonists. It is argued that the personal is superimposed upon the transnational in such a way that it helps the local to gain new significance. It is suggested that the cinematic representation of identity in recent Québécois and Mexican cinema demonstrates a tendency towards the transnational or global with a local colouring, but that, in fact, the personal is the real focus of interest. This trend away from overtly political concerns appears representative and reduces the national to an inevitable, involuntary aspect of identity. In that sense the national is mostly relevant for providing the context to Québécois or Mexican national cinema.

Identity, as the title suggests, constitutes the main focus of my thesis and is discussed from various angles including its connection with other pivotal issues such as liminality, death, religion and globalization. The fascinating process of identity formation is approached through the analysis of films from recent Québécois and Mexican cinema, many of which are less well or unknown to the wider public: Battle in Heaven (2005, Carlos Reygadas); Maelström (2000, Denis Villeneuve); Japón (2000, Carlos Reygadas); La turbulence des fluides (2002, Manon Briand); Babel (2006, Alejandro González Iñárritu) and Un crabe dans la tête (2001, André Turpin). Having sourced some of Québec and Mexico’s most visionary contemporary films for a close textual analysis, it seems safe to say that both cinemas afford an abundance of new talent to emerge next to more established filmmakers. It is of utmost concern in this thesis to convey the excellence in filmmaking in Québec and Mexico and to give the reader a sense of what the films selected have to offer.

Invisible Prisons

'Invisible Prisons: Gender, Performance and Identity in Recent Mexican Cinema'

by Orla Juliette Borreye



This thesis aims to examine representations of gender and sexuality in recent Mexican cinema concentrating on the analysis of three films: Y tu mamá también (2001) by Alfonso Cuarón, Perfume de violetas: nadie te oye (2000) by Marisa Sistach and Amores perros (2000) by Alejandro González Iñárritu. The thesis evaluates to what extent portrayals of gender and sexuality in Mexican cinema have changed and explores the complexity of such representations in the films selected. It relies mainly on Judith Butler’s social constructionist theories of gender performativity and clarifies that there is an evident crisis in the gender and sexual order depicted in these recent Mexican films which points to a social and national crisis. In this sense, the films are politically charged. All three of them seem to imply the need to liberate gender and sexual conventions in contemporary Mexican society beginning with definitions of masculinity, since it is the gender role which holds the most power and which is the most destructive. The films portray the current gender and sexual order as oppressive to all and in urgent need of transformation, as contemporary definitions of gender roles and therefore of identity constitute invisible prisons. To a large extent these films offer themselves as mirrors of a society and constitute a wake up call to an aware and active audience.

Centre for Mexican Studies

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