Negotiating Feminisms in La Familia: Intergenerational Women in the Writings of Ana Castillo and Sandra Cisneros

Hall, Eilidh (2017) Negotiating Feminisms in La Familia: Intergenerational Women in the Writings of Ana Castillo and Sandra Cisneros. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis explores literary representations of the ways in which Mexican American women negotiate feminisms in the family across generations through the maintenance, contestation, and adaptation of traditional gender roles. Using the lens of negotiation to read the texts of Ana Castillo and Sandra Cisneros, this thesis analyses the ways in which intergenerational women are active participants in the complex interventions and mediations that make up family life. The term ‘negotiation’ is used to denote the ways in which intergenerational women resist patriarchal oppression. Negotiation in mothering is central in Chicana feminist writings for as Gloria Anzaldúa states, “[la] gente Chicana tiene tres madres. [The Chicana people have three mothers.] All three are mediators.”1 In their writings, Cisneros and Castillo explore the complex mediations taking place within the Mexican American family and the various devices and strategies employed by women to reveal the nuances of the Chicana experience. These characters are compelled to negotiate their place in the family on unequal terms, within the confines of a framework that stifles the development of women by prescribing them restrictive and limited roles in their capacity as grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. The writing of Cisneros and Castillo demonstrates a politics of negotiation that critiques the gendered ideologies and roles of the family set-up. Close readings of these texts allow for nuanced analyses of the variety of tactics employed by women to survive, and oftentimes thrive, in the oppressive environment of the patriarchal family. In order to persist in an often misogynist environment they undertake feminist negotiations to forge meaningful identities. Their contestation is further complicated by the desire to remain connected to a Mexican heritage in a hostile Anglo American society. This thesis not only engages with the literary representations of the experiences of women in the family, but connects these experiences to the contexts in which these families are found. In the struggle to realise independent and yet interdependent identities, women look to the stories of the lineage of marginalised women in the family for inspiration, foregrounding the stories of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. This thesis calls for a rethinking of women characters beyond limited, and limiting, familial roles and uses the framework of feminist negotiation as a means to explore the empowering possibilities of intergenerational female relationships.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of American Studies (former - to 2014)
Depositing User: Megan Ruddock
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2018 13:10
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 01:38

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