Tuesday 12th Feb: Divya Mehta, ‘History as Gendered Archetype in Carlos Fuentes’ The Death of Artemio Cruz’


My paper will critically analyse the relationship of gendered archetype and history, as articulated by Mexican writers like Fuentes and Octavio Paz, but which has a pan-Latin-American relevance. Fuentes’ The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) relies on culturally-resonant archetype to novelise almost a century of Mexican history, including the famed Mexican Revolution of 1910. The archetype, which casts Mexican masculinity in the mould of shame and conflict about his mestizo hybridity, and conversely aligns Mexican femininity with passivity, becomes the lens through which the ‘failures’ of Mexican history are viewed.  To begin with, my paper will trace Fuentes’ debt to Octavio Paz’s articulation of this cultural typing –  I will highlight the gender biases underpinning Paz’s distillation of the archetype from the real history of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in the 16th century.  I will then go on to examine Fuentes’s appropriation of the archetype in his re-telling of 20th century Mexican history.  At the heart of the paper are issues of the politics of historiography, national and cultural iconography, and women’s agency and representation in history.


I am a D.Phil candidate (English) currently in my second year. My research interests include methodological debates on historiography, narrative history and historical fiction, gender as an analytical category, the novel form, and postcolonial literature and theory.


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