Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Spanish & Portuguese

First Advisor

Juan P. Dabove

Second Advisor

Peter Elmore

Third Advisor

Tania Martuscelli

Fourth Advisor

Leila Gomez

Fifth Advisor

Robert Buffington

Abstract

This dissertation studies the representations of prostitution in relation to artistic and literary creation in contemporary Spanish American novels (1964-2011). Specifically, I analyze the following five novels: Juntacadáveres (1964) by Juan Carlos Onetti, ¡Qué viva la música! (1977) by Andrés Caicedo, El vampiro de la colonia Roma (1979) by Luis Zapata, Memoria de mis putas tristes by Gabriel García Márquez (2004) and Canción de tumba by Julián Herbert. (2011). I argue that prostitution is a trope that allows these novels to embody purely literary processes such as reading and writing.

Critical literature on prostitution in nineteen and twenty century Latin-American novels has focused almost exclusively in the allegoric meanings that portray the prostitute as a character who either represents the social ailments of the Nation-State or a symbol of political and economic problems brought forth by the global markets. Instead, this dissertation considers the representation of brothels and prostitution in these novels as a metaliterary trope. In other words, brothels and prostitutes in these novels showcase stories that engage the vocation, desire and necessity of producing oral and written artistic discourses.

In the first chapter, I examine how the brothel’s operation intertwines the inhabitants’ lives within a small community. I look at the relationship between the brothel opening and the writing acts which are triggered such as poems, chronicles, letters and even the fiction that we read. In the second chapter, I examine two texts identified with the counter-cultural movement of the seventies. It is important to note that the prostitutes in these novels are not just the main characters, but also the ones that narrate their own stories displaying singular ways of the storytelling process. In the third chapter, I explore how the feminine body associated with prostitution stimulates private fantasies related to the act of writing. In the first case, the narrator becomes a well-known author. In the other case, the narrator, who is already a writer, explores his own process of literary creation as it is entwined with his experiences about sexuality.

The analysis in this dissertation is constrained to a literary reflection of the corpus, and in that sense is proposed as a contribution to the discussion of literary criticism. As such, I examine how these five novels highlight the relevance of prostitution as a trope, which in itself is a forum for reflection on literature.