The New Queens of Crime: Images of Women Detectives in Contemporary Argentinean and Mexican Literature

Price, Gillian, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Pellon, Gustavo, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines a selection of contemporary female-authored Argentinean and Mexican detective fiction that centers upon female detectives. In recent years, both male and female Latin American authors have found the genre, particularly in its hardboiled variant, to be a valuable framework from which to critique corrupt socio-political systems and question authority figures. While in the past detective fiction had been overwhelmingly dominated by male authors writing about male detectives, in recent years women have increasingly experimented with the detective story, creating female protagonists who not only undermine conventions of the genre, but also defy gender stereotypes and challenge gender roles.

In the first chapter, I analyze three of Syria Poletti’s family-based detective stories, “Estampa antigua,” “Mala suerte,” and “Rojo en la salina,” from her collection Historias en rojo (1967). In each of Poletti’s stories, women are portrayed as powerful beacons of strength and protectors of the family and the community, while men are depicted as emotionally and physically feeble. Angélica Gorodischer’s two humorous thrillers, Floreros de alabastro, alfombras de Bokhara (1985) and Jugo de mango (1988), are the focus of chapter two. Gorodischer’s aging female protagonists are two unlikely detectives who eschew rational deduction, succeeding largely thanks to chance. Gorodischer uses humor to subvert reductive gender stereotypes and challenge gender roles. In chapter three, I analyze Myriam Laurini’s Morena en rojo (1994) and Claudia Piñeiro’s Elena sabe (2007). Both novels expose and denounce systemic corruption and abuse rather than individual crimes. Laurini’s novel intriguingly intertwines the testimonial novel with the detective frame, uncovering the stories of marginalized women throughout Mexico and beyond. In Elena sabe, the eponymous character’s physical disability, brought on by Parkinson’s disease, is a metaphor through which we see that religious and social constraints have similarly restricted Elena’s behavior throughout her life. The last chapter examines two artistic responses to the recent femicide in Juárez, Mexico. Carlos Carrera and Sabina Berman’s Backyard/Traspatio (2009) denounces maquiladoras’ exploitation of young women and girls and the widespread venality among the Juárez police department, both of which contribute to the continuation of the violence. Cristina Rivera Garza’s La muerte me da (2007) depicts the serial murder and castration of four male victims. This metafictional novel subverts nearly all of the conventions of the genre, making many intertextual references and denying the reader a conclusive ending.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
detective fiction, contemporary Argentinean literature, contemporary Mexican literature, feminism, testimonial literature, disability theory, humor theory, femicide, scapegoat, Latin American women's literature
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