Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Renée Silverman

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Erik Camayd-Freixas

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Santiago Juan-Navarro

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Bianca Premo

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, feminist philosophy, Latin American literature, modern literature, other languages, societies, and cultures, philosophy, women's studies

Date of Defense



Primitivism is a philosophical attitude and artistic view based on the search for origins. It is linked to a simpler conception of life and has been used as a strategy to critique modernity through literature and art, as well as a means to subvert traditional and academicist paradigms in cultural production. Although most scholars have considered Primitivism as a problem of Western ideology, Erik Camayd-Freixas, Marianna Torgovnick, and Ben Etherington have shown that Primitivism is present in all cultures and that its strategies have been deployed to deal with racial, ecological, economic, artistic, and gender issues.

My dissertation analyzes the ways in which Latin American poets Gabriela Mistral, Alfonsina Storni, and Juana de Ibarbourou employ Primitivism as a means of revolutionizing the traditional canon of women’s poetry. I make a comparison between the voices of women’s poetry of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries in the Southern Cone of South America. I examine literary work by Mercedes Marín del Solar, Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta, and Silvia Fernández to demonstrate that, in the nineteenth century, women writing poetry felt themselves forced to adhere to the rules of progress, modernity, positivism, and national ideology enforced by masculine rationality. Women writers had to negotiate with these dictates in order to have a presence in Latin American nineteenth-century literary discourse. They became great defenders of patriotic feelings, progress, technical and industrial advances, motherhood inspired by the model of the Virgin Mary, and idealized love, which were then considered important factors in a ‘civilized’ society.

In contrast, women writers of the twentieth century changed this pattern using the strategies of Primitivism. Mistral, Storni, and Ibarbourou transform the paradigms of motherhood and idealized love, turning them into creative, corporeal, and sensual experiences. They prefer Nature to urban areas, imagining the natural world as free spaces in which women can express their repressed desires and transcend the limits of masculine modernity and social norms. These women poets posit their views about such issues as gender inequality and the destruction of the environment for economic purposes, making them important antecedents of Second-Wave Feminism and Ecofeminism.





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