115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Double Vision: Beauty as the Beast in Short Stories by Latin American Women Authors

Anne Connor, Southern Oregon University

This presentation studies how three women authors of Spanish America and Brazil make use of the fantastic double to explore the unique pressures women experience due to the excessive significance placed on their physical appearance.  Stories by Ana María Shua, Clarice Lispector, and Silvina Ocampo take a second look at the concept of beauty.

Proposal: 

The excessive importance placed on female physical appearance is a form of discrimination against women.  Treated by patriarchal society as an object to be judged, women frequently try to find power in controlling and manipulating their appearance; however, this can lead to an obsession with physical perfection that traps women in an endless cycle of self-consciousness and self-hatred tied to their body image as they attempt to fulfill society's impossible definition of flawless beauty.  According to Sheila Jeffreys, postmodern ideas of ‘choice’ and lower levels of feminist consciousness have helped ‘normalize’ disempowering beauty practices (30).  However, now, more than ever, women are encouraged to manipulate their bodies to try to achieve unrealistic beauty ideals associated with thinness and sexiness.  This presentation will study the ways three women authors of Spanish America and Brazil have made use of the fantastic double to explore the unique pressures women experience due to the excessive significance placed on their physical attributes. “Nariz operada” (Historia de un cuento 1998) by Ana María Shua, “Ele me bebeu” (A via crucis do corpo 1974) by Clarice Lispector, and “Los celosos” (Cornelia frente al espejo 1988) “El vestido de terciopelo,” (La furia 1959) and “Las vestiduras peligrosas” (Los días de la noche 1970) by Silvina Ocampo all employ physical appearance, and in particular the trappings of femininity, as means of repression for their protagonists.  While the double in nineteenth century literature was typically an uncivilized monster, Ana María Shua, Clarice Lispector, and Silvina Ocampo use this image in the twentieth century to depict civilization, and the concept of beauty it has created, as the true beast.