Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Spanish & Portuguese

First Advisor

Juan Pablo Dabove

Second Advisor

Peter Michael Elmore

Third Advisor

Leila Gómez


This dissertation addresses problems of space, solitude, and representation of the desert region of northern Mexico by examining the narrative works of six contemporary Mexican writers -Ricardo Elizondo, Gerardo Cornejo, Severino Salazar, Miguel Méndez, Jesús Gardea, and Daniel Sada. Relatos en la arena identifies a series of specific rhetorical devices in a corpus of texts produced as part of a new literary phenomenon known as Desert Literature (literatura del desierto) produced in the last three decades of the Twentieth Century. These authors propose the use of several narrative models such as Historical Novel, Latin American Boom, Regional Novel, Bildungsroman, etc., in order to expose differences and similarities in the construction and definition of desert region of north Mexico. Situated in the desert landscape, the four novels and two volumes of short stories propose the re-writing of a series of traditional discourses that have defined this arid territory.

The first chapter is an introduction to the main topic of the desert and its multiple meanings throughout history. The second chapter examines Ricardo Elizondo´s Setenta veces siete and Gerardo Cornejo´s La sierra y el viento, and how these novels propose the Mexican desert as a place where progress and wealth are possible, contrary to canonical literary works that embrace most the traditional myths regarding the Mexican desert as a site for political and spiritual testing and self-scrutiny under extreme conditions of violence and poverty. The third chapter focuses on Severino Salazar´s Desiertos intactos and Miguel Méndez´s El sueño de Santa María de las Piedras, and how these works establish a particular dialogue with narrative models such as Historic and Regional Novel in order to question the ways by which the official discourse has represented specific events that occurred in the area of northern Mexico. Salazar presents a story, in which past and present appear closely linked by the actions of the main characters. On the other hand, Méndez proposes an ironic version a narrative called "desert" and its products -wetbacks, chicanos, tourists, drug dealers, politicians, philosophers, common citizens, etc. Méndez focuses on the arid territory as a complex experience that claims its own identity.

The fourth and last chapter explores the topic of solitude as an essential condition of inhabitants of the arid territory of northern Mexico, as marked out in the narrative works of Jesús Gardea and Daniel Sada. The former establishes solitude as a result of lack of human contact, absence of reference, and a constant silence in his characters. The latter proposes solitude as a consequence of abandonment. These short stories present a series of events that reflect aspects of daily life of the desert dwellers and their contradictory condition of abandonment in the open space. The significance of this study lies on the fact that these novels and short stories mean not only a critical response to those works that have produced a traditional perception of the desert region of northern Mexico, but they also mean a crucial way to face problems such as National Space in contemporary Mexico. Desert Literature claims a particular place within the canonical literary works and it focuses on problems related to concepts of space in literary discourses.