Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Gender, Sexual Desire and Manuela Sáenz in the Writings of Jean-Baptiste Boussingault and Ricardo Palma

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2010), 87, (3), 347–364.

Abstract

This article presents a close reading of three nineteenth-century narratives that have influenced subsequent representations of Manuela Sáenz Aizpuru de Thorne (1797–1856), the famous 'Libertadora del Libertador': the Mémoirs of Jean-Baptiste Boussingault and two tradiciones by Ricardo Palma. I find that while both narratives portray Sáenz as a fragmented and eccentric subject due to her unconventional performance of gender, they do so in very different ways. Boussingault sexualizes her as the object of the heterosexual male gaze in a way that brings irony and levity to his narrative; while Palma desexualizes her and creates for her a separate gender category. My analysis draws into focus several stereotypes and shifting values surrounding gender in nineteenth-century Spanish America and thus engages in recent discussions about gender representation and about Manuela Sáenz as historical figure and cultural icon.

Este artículo es un análisis textual de tres narrativas que han influido en varias representaciones de Manuela Sáenz Aizpuru de Thorne (1797–1856), la famosa 'Libertadora del Libertador': las Memorias de Jean-Baptiste Boussingault y dos tradiciones de Ricardo Palma. Encuentro que estas narrativas coinciden en su representación de la Sáenz como sujeto incoherente y excéntrico que transgredió las normas del género, pero lo logran de maneras distintas. La Sáenz de la narrativa de Boussingault queda sexualizada como objeto de la mirada heterosexual masculina de manera que aporta a la narrativa cierta ironía y humor. En cambio, Palma minimaliza su sexualidad y crea para ella un género aparte. Este análisis trata de varios estereotipos y valores relacionados con el género de la Hispanoamérica decimonónica, contribuyendo así a los recientes debates sobre la representación de género y sobre Manuela Sáenz como figura histórica e icono cultural.

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Hennes, Heather