Threatening young ladies: Re -inscribing national borders through images of adolescent women in twentieth -century Mexican, Brazilian, and ethnic North American novels

Numsiri Cindy Kunakemakorn, Purdue University


This project redefines current border theories through images of adolescent women in 20th century Mexican, Brazilian, and ethnic North American novels. The study argues for expanding the way we view border theory by looking to the female bildungsroman as a physical borderlands between adolescence and adulthood. The majority of the dissertation considers six novels: Machado de Assis's Dom Casmurro, Rachel de Quieroz's As tres Marias, Elena Garro's Los recuerdos del porvenir , Rosario Castellanos's Oficio de tinieblas, Lois-Ann Yamanaka's Blu's Hanging, and Evelyn Lau's Runaway . This section initially traces the depiction of female adolescents as forbidden, sexualized objects to comparisons of varying experiences of adolescence in which young women who move from a situation in which innocence is enforced to a society in which worldly wisdom is suddenly expected. Next, I study an adolescent's view of marriage, its significance, and its seeming inevitability followed by the combined themes of female devaluation and failure of those who rebel against gender roles. I conclude this section with a discussion of the interstices of class, race, gender, and geographic boundaries. The introduction and conclusion include a review of current border theories set alongside current studies in the female bildungsroman. I compare the various novels in terms of adolescent and other types of bordered experiences and invite further study and other possible means of seeing adolescents as having similar relationships in the constraints and pressures of geographical, racial, gendered, and possibly now, physical, borders.




Stephenson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Latin American literature|American literature|Canadian literature

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