Subversive narrative and Mexicanidad in the works of Luis Buñuel and Juan Rulfo
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This thesis is a comparative study of the Mexican works of Luis Buñuel and Juan Rulfo, focussing on the period from 1950 to 1962. It examines the impact of Mexican cultural nationalism on the artistic practices of a writer, on the one hand, and a filmmaker, on the other. In both cases, it becomes clear that state-sponsored cultural nationalism in early- to mid-twentieth century Mexico politicises the artist’s outlook and aesthetics, and that such politicisation is manifest in the expression of major thematic concerns that coincide across the selected corpus of narrative fiction and film as well as in the use of subversive narrative techniques which are often medium-specific but which, I maintain, serve the common end of artistic protest by means of deconstructing the myth and ideology of national unity and unitary national identity that underpins Mexican cultural nationalism in the period. I contend that their subversive texts contest unitary depictions of mexicanidad in earlier post-Revolutionary cultural production through a unique blend of dark entropic humour (O’Neill, 1990) and experimental narration. Their enigmatic story worlds are actualised via a distinctive blend of realist and non-realist modes of narration, thus problematizing distinctions between reality and fantasy. Firstly, through an application of Foucault’s (1986) concept of ‘heterotopias of deviance’, I examine their innovative approach to spatiality, and argue that this aspect of their narratives undermines the hegemony of nationalist discourses, particularly targeting the ‘performance’ of social and religious rituals. Secondly, I explore how Buñuel’s and Rulfo’s works denaturalize normative ‘gender-appropriate’ behaviour with their subversive portrayal of masculinities and femininities. Finally, I analyse how the use of death as a semiotic marker for mexicanidad is questioned and subverted in their texts.