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Many contemporary Latin American authors explore identity and re-write the past through narrative fiction, often looking to the violent beginnings of the Conquest and Colonization as a logical point of departure. This dissertation examines identity formation through fictional characters living with two identities in the following historical novels: El naranjo by Carlos Fuentes, Gonzalo Guerrero by Eugenio Aguirre, Duerme by Carmen Boullosa, Invasores del paraíso by Herminio Martínez, Memorias del Nuevo Mundo by Homero Aridjis, and Los perros del paraíso by Abel Posse.
Chapter One situates this study among the substantial critical corpus dedicated to Latin American novels of the Conquest and introduces a theoretical framework for analyzing double agent characters and identity formation in Latin American literature. Chapter Two contrasts the characterizations of Gonzalo Guerrero and Jerónimo de Aguilar in novels by Carlos Fuentes and Eugenio Aguirre with previous representations and analzyes the significance of the more complex, dual identity view of these two historical personages. Chapter Three examines dual identity as it relates to gender and sexuality. In Duerme a French woman cross-dresses as a Spanish soldier while in Invasores del paraíso, a young man with repressed homoerotic desires negotiates an identity between the typical machismo found among most members of his expedition and a group of openly practicing homosexuals. Chapter Four explores the complex identity of the Crypto-Jews, or secret Jews, and their persecution by the Inquistion in fifteenth century Spain and in the New World. Two characterizations of Christopher Columbus as a converso and possible Crypto-Jew in Los perros del paraíso and Memorias del Nuevo Mundo inform the examination of this phenomenon. Chapter Five looks at the broader issues related to identity formation in contemporary Latin America such as globalization and the creation of new types of readers.
Essentialist views of identity are challenged through the double agent characters in these texts who are forced to alternate between a public persona and a socially marginalized identity.
Advisor: Catherine Nickel