The Other 'I' : The New Narcissism of Postmodernism First Person Non-Protagonist Narrators in Novels by José Donoso, Elena Garro, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa

Reagan, Patricia Elaine, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Shaw, Donald, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Lagos, María Inés, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Chávez, Daniel, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Owensby, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the role of the first-person non-protagonist narrator in José Donoso's El jardín de al lado; Elena Garro's Testimonios sobre Mariana; Gabriel García Márquez's Crónica de una muerte anunciada and Mario Vargas Llosa's El hablador. The observer narrator in each of these texts revitalizes the ability to communicate with the reader, by making him or her an accomplice in the observation of the protagonist of each novel. Through this new bond each non-protagonist narrator rejects the notion of bearing absolute truth through fiction by becoming a new postmodern storyteller who enables the reader to individualize his or her experience with the novel's protagonist, thereby counteracting the loss of the ability to narrate experience in contemporary society lamented by Walter Benjamin. Through his or her perspective, the observer narrator underscores the subjective nature of knowledge and representation by rejecting the first-person narrative, by undermining his or her own authority in the text, by questioning the roles of truth and fiction and by parodying more traditional genres including the realist, testimonio, chronicle and ethnography studies, respectively. This new storyteller can be considered a response to postmodern society in which the reader may suffer from various degrees of identity crises. The contemporary individual is often classified as de-centered and fragmented and unable to grasp a complete view of his or her un-fragmented self. Indeed, just as the infant in Lacan's mirror stage is theorized to suffer from feelings of fragmentation when he or she lacks a physical mirror in which to see his or her whole body, the readers of these texts may also feel a similar desire to conceptualize the whole Self, yet lack the perspective of the mirror. This inability can be called a narcissistic deficiency. As the reader observes iii the protagonist of each novel, this central character becomes a mirror in which the narrator and reader can begin a process of rebuilding and reaffirming an image of the whole Self. I have termed this pathway to self-affirmation, through the observation of the Other, the new narcissism of postmodernism. The observer narrator should not be considered a coincidental pattern but rather is a complex rebuttal to the problems of living and writing in a postmodern society.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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