Queer Histories and Interstitial Territories: Transgressive Women from Early Modern Iberia to Postmodern Aztlán




Perry-Samaniego, Lenora

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The project I attempt herein links the early modern, modern and postmodern eras using literature from Spain, Mexico and the United States in order to show the queer historical connections among literary subjects. Oftentimes, in my discussion of texts the connection extends to the authors as well. These connections underscore the movement of subaltern sexuality to a covert position within literature and social history. The research also shows that queer figures emerge cross-culturally in literature during times of paradigm shifts, or other widespread crisis or change. The reaction to cultural shifts often appears in the stories of the people, whether sanctioned by the nation-state, or in resistance to it. I theorize how queer history connects to early modern Spanish picaresque autobiography, alongside modern curanderismo, as well as postmodern Chicana literature and has proved most effective in making the connection to queer history. I progress much like Levi-Strauss' bricoleur, piecing together the fragments of stories of women and transgressive subjects who, while their whole story may not be visible or accessible, refuse to be silenced, and refuse to disappear. The subjects, whose identities range from transgender warriors to curanderas, have a natural ability to elude the reader on some level. This elusiveness may result from an evolved capacity for self-preservation; however, removing the hegemonic barriers to their stories is imperative to an understanding of the connections that queer subjects create between cultures. As Chicana historian Emma Pérez reminds us, the colonial, white, heteronormative ways of seeing and knowing have accommodated the erasure of queers and people of color, and therefore needs to be challenged in order to confront and rearrange a mind-set that privileges certain relationships. It is only through (re)constructing histories that disconnecting from heteronormativity becomes real and tangible. I hope that this dissertation will provide links to a cohesive history for a community that has been denied a past and a future by the dominant heteronormative culture.

Only by reconstructing histories of queer Chicanas, which includes the influences of the queer warrior and the masculine female, may we call the continuing struggle for social justice inclusive. For the postmodern lesbian who lives her life outside the heteronormative code, in what seems like a daily battle for inclusion, the warrior myth carries much significance. As important as it is to give Chicana lesbians someone with whom they can identify, perhaps more important is the call to action for all queers that is motivated by knowing our history. Linking the past to the present will enable transgressive individuals to be the guides for moving between hetero/homosexual worlds, creating what Gloria Anzaldúa calls "nepantleras." These are the historical and textual people who have the ability to negotiate the subtle (and not-so-subtle) places of the anti-normative that surfaces in resistance to dominant ideology. It is up to scholars to uncover textual evidence as part of this resistance. Until the world changes, queer texts will exist in a liminal space carved from alternate ways of being. As scholars and readers, however, we must give them space, excavate their memory, and recognize their worth by historicizing a more fluid and dynamic representation of women, both real and imagined.


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Catalina de Erauso, Chicana, Lesbian, Malinche, Queer, Transgender