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Title:Adolescent time: Adolescence and the formation of Chicano literature
Author(s):Zavala, Noel
Director of Research:Rodriguez, Richard T.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Rodriguez, Richard T.; Somerville, Siobhan
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cutler, John Alba; Koshy, Susan
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Chicano literature, authenticity, masculinity, adolescence, temporality
Abstract:This dissertation examines the function of adolescence in the formation of Chicano literature. Theories of assimilation and concerns over Mexican-American cultural inauthenticity animate much of Chicano literature and its criticism, yet my research aims to focus on the liminal space during which Mexican-American adolescent males negotiate complex ideological forces on their way toward manhood. To examine the continually shifting parameters of adolescence I combine readings of literary representations with theories of temporality to study what I call “adolescent time,” which brings together theories of temporality, biopolitics, and subjectivity to illuminate the coming-of-age process for Mexican American men. Building on these readings, the dissertation also comments on the politics of Chicano literary history. Chapter One examines two Chicano canonical novels—Americo Paredes’s George Washington Gomez (1930s) and José Antonio Villareal’s Pocho (1990)—that rely upon the generic conventions of the bildungsroman and of adolescence to establish legible representations of Mexican American masculinity which were strategically recovered by Chicano activists and scholars. A strategic identification with the protagonists of these texts shows their recovery to be keyed into debates regarding their literary value, thus shedding light on the politics of canon building. Chapter Two looks beyond the criticism against Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory (1982) to focus on the adolescent time of the novel—paying special attention to issues of class, race, gender, and sexuality—to better understand the author’s conservative views. An iconoclastic figure in Chicano studies, Rodriguez’s refusal to generate a reproductive model of kinship and ethnic identification, a failure akin to the adolescent as failed investment. While Rodriguez may be bereft of literary forebears—a branch presumed dead on the tree of Chicano literary history—his work has generated decades of criticism and debate, and in this way he has borne a different kind of fruit. Chapter Three reconsiders the value of Young Adult literature to Chicano Studies, heretofore woefully understudied. I read authors Matt de la Peña and Benjamin Alire Sáenz as attuned to the concerns of both Chicano Studies and Children’s/Young Adult Literary Studies; their work eschews ethnic nationalism to attend to the traumatic experiences of the adolescent period to model positive types of subject formation for its young reader. Nevertheless, like many Chicano canonical texts about adolescence, these Young Adult texts continue to grapple with notions of race, gender, and sexuality and thus expand the available representations of masculinity beyond heteropatriarchal nationalism. To conclude, the dissertation’s fourth chapter examines Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima (1972), an extremely popular crossover text, making it apropos to blur the lines of adolescent time by expanding the parameters of adolescent time to speculate on the narrative and perform the dissertation in miniature. Overall, the dissertation maintains that Chicano literary history’s formation hinges upon adolescent time, which in turn allows us to grasp the high stakes of assessing gender and sexuality in its constitution.
Issue Date:2018-04-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Noel Zavala
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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