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Wednesday, April 26 • 10:55am - 11:15am
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a coming of age story and family chronicle that depicts the Dominican diaspora in the United States. The novel has been widely lauded and examined for its prominent themes of hybridity, multiculturalism, and the immigrant experience; however, my thesis offers a departure from those themes by joining the conversation regarding the less-commonly written about, but nonetheless important theme of Dominican masculinity and gender roles. I explore the ways in which masculinity is a performance and the extent to which its associated characteristics are internalized. Furthermore, my thesis calls to attention and questions the legitimacy of branding stereotypical male characteristics within the novel as quintessentially Dominican. Díaz’s narrator, Yunior, frequently and self-reflexively uses the protagonist, Oscar, as a scale from which notions of Dominican masculinity may be measured; however, his bias and insecure narration provide contextual clues about his own masculine shortcomings that suggest that as a man he needs to constantly seek external approval of his own ideas about male identity. Given that Díaz uses Yunior’s deluded narration to explore ideas of Dominican manhood, it is evident that his ideas about masculinity are externally informed: perhaps by immediate male associates within his family (unlike Oscar who lacked a father) and by the shadow of the Rafael Trujillo, the notorious Dominican dictator (who symbolizes the extremes of masculinity). Having established that the narrator’s ideas are informed externally, and given his numerous references to the subjugation of the Dominican Republic by Trujillo and the United States, I argue that the novel presents Dominican masculinity as an outgrowth of traditional cultural forms and as an inflated reclamation of authority by men who have been stripped of it historically in the Dominican Republic.


Wednesday April 26, 2017 10:55am - 11:15am
232 Karpen Hall

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