Murder & Masculinity

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Rebecca Biron breaks new ground in this study of masculinity, violence, and the strategic construction of collective political identities in twentieth-century Latin American fiction. By engaging current sociological, psychoanalytic, and feminist theories, Murder and Masculinity analyzes the cliche of proving virility through violence against women. Biron develops her argument through close readings of five works: Jorge Luis Borges's La intrusa, Armonia Somer's El despojo, Clarice Lispector's A Maca no Escuro, Manuel Puig's The Buenos Aires Affair, and Reinaldo Arenas's El Asalto. Although men murdering women is often interpreted as nothing more than machista misogyny, Biron argues that the five narratives addressed in this book show that healed masculinities are essential to the achievement of cultural identity and political autonomy in Latin America. The introduction to this study deftly situates Biron's work in relation to previous theoretical arguments on the social and political dimensions of Latin American writing. The five subsequent chapters offer superb analyses of the individual texts. Like their male protagonists who experiment with the psychological and legal extremes of gender division, these narratives risk nonconformity to the laws of genre in their quest for liberation from violent social and literary conventions. In combining elements of detective stories, crime narratives, psychological case studies, and magical or grotesque realism, they offer metafictional commentary on a network of discourses that confuses images of masculinity, national identity, and political autonomy in postcolonial Latin America.