Both popular political discourse and Chicana/o literary studies have been historically dominated by a simplistic model of assimilation that casts the process as ultimately a matter of subjective agency. Opposing such a model has meant lionizing aMoreBoth popular political discourse and Chicana/o literary studies have been historically dominated by a simplistic model of assimilation that casts the process as ultimately a matter of subjective agency.
Opposing such a model has meant lionizing a construction of Chicano masculinity founded on heroic resistance to dominant, Anglo-American culture. But the masculine warrior hero of Chicano movement literature has also been constructed through the subordination of others, especially women.
In this dissertation, I argue that representations of assimilation demonstrate the conflicted, often contradictory negotiation of Chicano masculinities since the mid-twentieth century. Following recent sociological scholarship, I call attention to the many ways that assimilation is a multi-directional process, a mutual attenuation of differences that constitute social boundaries. By the same token, I move to understand masculinity as relational and performative, potentially finding authenticity in scenes of mutual recognition, rather than radical self-assertion.
I begin by examining Jose Antonio Villarreals Pocho (1959) and Americo Paredess George Washington Gomez (1990), two novels from the Mexican-American generation of 1930-1960, a generation often seen as the assimilationist father against which the Chicano generation rebelled. Not only do these texts complicate such a simplistic narrative, but so does their hesitant reception within Chicano literary history. Proceeding to the divisive politics of the Viet Nam era, Chapter Two examines how Chicano narratives of the war in Viet Nam interrogate the category of authenticity upon which ideas of assimilation are based.
Chapter Three revisits Jimmy Santiago Bacas impressive poetry through the heuristic of the prison to analyze the machinations by which state institutions forcefully assimilate unruly subjects. Finally, Chapter Four foregrounds ambivalence about literary tradition through a comparative analysis of three texts from the early 1980s: Richard Rodriguezs Hunger of Memory (1981), Danny Santiagos Famous All Over Town (1983), and Arturo Islass The Rain God (1984). I argue that these novels show assimilation to be the vexed signification of Chicano literatures very production, and that judgments about whether these texts belong to Chicano literature reveal the extent to which Chicana/o Studies remains fixed in an unworkable position of ressentiment in relation to American culture.