Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Modern Languages and Literatures (Spanish), Under the Supervision of Professor José Eduardo González. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Timothy R. Robbins


Since the introduction of radio to Latin America in the 1930’s and later television in the 1950’s, mass culture has become an important and even contentious part of Latin American identity, and as such has also become an important part of Latin American narratives. In looking at the issue of mass culture, two basic approaches emerge: one can see mass culture as a force of domination or one can see it as a force of resistance. It is possible to trace these approaches through different time periods and geopolitical situations. The Mexican Onda writers, for instance, utilize the rock and roll of North American mass culture for the creation of a generational ethos which pushes the boundaries of the authoritarian idea of Mexican identity. This can be seen as a positive force, as is the case with José Agustín, Gustavo Sainz and Parménides García Saldaña, or as a manifestation of cultural imperialism as Hector Manjarrez proposes. Carlos Monsiváis bridges the spectrum between the two ideologies, gradually envisioning mass culture to be an instrument of cultural imperialism at the same time that it offers a means of resisting social hierarchies and assumptions. At the same time that the Onda authors are exploring Mexican identity, Manuel Puig incorporates mass culture through film and radio in his novels with a different focus. In his novels, Boquitas pintadas and The Buenos Aires Affair, Puig explores the construction of power structures based on gender and ultimately proposes that mass culture can be used to resist these structures if one takes an active, critical approach. The Onda and Puig form a strong basis for comparison and contrast for postmodern writers Alberto Fuguet and Rodrigo Fresán. These authors see mass culture as a part of the fabric of postmodern life, but in this they also see it as a means of domination. Mass culture becomes a fetish that allows the individual to maintain the status quo.

Advisor: José Eduardo González