Women have always been the muses who inspire the creativity of men, but how do women become the creators of art themselves? This was the challenge faced by Latin American women who aspired to write in the 1920s and 1930s. Though women's roles were opening up during this time, women writers were not automatically welcomed by the Latin American literary avant-gardes, whose male members viewed women's participation in tertulias (literary gatherings) and publications as uncommon and even forbidding. How did Latin American women writers, celebrated by male writers as the "New Eve" but distrusted as fellow creators, find their intellectual homes and fashion their artistic missions?
In this innovative book, Vicky Unruh explores how women writers of the vanguard period often gained access to literary life as public performers. Using a novel, interdisciplinary synthesis of performance theory, she shows how Latin American women's work in theatre, poetry declamation, song, dance, oration, witty display, and bold journalistic self-portraiture helped them craft their public personas as writers and shaped their singular forms of analytical thought, cultural critique, and literary style. Concentrating on eleven writers from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, Unruh demonstrates that, as these women identified themselves as instigators of change rather than as passive muses, they unleashed penetrating critiques of projects for social and artistic modernization in Latin America.