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The dramatic feminine discourse of Cristina Escofet

Item type text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic)

Authors Rathbun, Jennifer

Publisher The University of Arizona.

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ProQuest Informatnn and Learning 300 North Zeeb Road. Ann Arbor. Ml 48106-1346 USA 800-521-0600



by Jennifer Rathbun Copyright © Jennifer Rathbun 2002 A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the


In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of



In the Graduate College


2002 UMI Number 3050370 Copyright 2002 by Rathbun, Jennifer Lynn Ail rights reserved.

UMI UMI Microform 3050370 Copyright 2002 by ProQuest Information and Learning Company.

All rights reserved. This microform edition is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.

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As members of the Final Examination Committee, we certify that we have read the dissertation prepared by Jennifer Rathbun entitled The Dramatic Feminine Discourse of Cristina Escofet and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

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Final approval and acceptance of this dissertation is contingent upon the candidate's submission of the final copy of the dissertation to the Graduate College.

I hereby certify that I have read this dissertation prepared under my direction and recoamend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement.

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This thesis has been submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for an advanced degree at The University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library to be made available to borrowers under rules of the Library.

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I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to Cristina Escofet who speaks for so many women through her plays and whose cooperation and insights into my dissertation were invaluable. I also extend thanks to my readers Professor Malcolm Compitello, Dean Charles Tatum and Assistant Professor Melissa Fitch for their countless hours of dedication to my work. In addition, I thank my family, Juan Armando Rojas, and above all my son, Adryan Zuriel, who has spent the first year of his life in front of the computer and listening to his mother's feminist ideas. I would not have been able to write without everyone's support and understanding. Again, thank you!


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The Dramatic Feminine Discourse of Cristina Escofet interrogates this author's use of language as a way to unravel her feminist discourse. In her writings on theater, her public pronouncements and her theater workshops Escofet employs the term "kaleidoscope" to describe her approach to language: colorful, changing and composed of many components. Therefore, my search to describe Escofet's feminine discourse uses a definition of discourse that embraces its kaleidoscopic nature. My approach is grounded in the theoretical insights of Helene Cixous, first and primary disseminator of the theory of feminine discourse, who maintains that feminine writing is elusive and must be approached from different angles.

Consequently, my thesis also encompasses a study of the images of women, and their sexuality, and the effects of simulacra on feminine identity.

In Cristina Escofet's search for a contemporary image of women her feminine discourse reevaluates, destabalizes or reinvents the image of women that has been perpetuated through Hollywood and through the telling and retelling of fairy and folk tales. The image of or reference to

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Cinderella, or Snow White and of actresses such as Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and the character Annie Hall are integrated into almost every one of Escofet plays.

These images of Hollywood actresses and fairy and folk tale heroines stem from their performative gender roles.

As Judith Butler explains, gender is an act created by society that has been mistaken for reality. To mistake the act for the real is a direct consequence of simulacra as explained by Jean Baudrillard. Escofet, conscious of the nature of signs in today* s society, presents and explores the problems that arise out of the performative nature of gender, or rather, out of simulacra in relation to female's identity in her plays. The exploration of the image of women and the effects of simulacra on feminine identity continue in Escofet's characters' exploration of sexuality.

Escofet adequately represents women's sexual beliefs,

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The purpose of this dissertation is to critically assess the feminine discourse in the plays of Argentine dramatist Cristina Escofet(1945). The Dramatic Feminine Discourse of Cristina Escofet interrogates this author's use of language as a way to unravel her feminist discourse. In her writings on theater, her public pronouncements and her theater workshops Escofet employs the term "kaleidoscope" to describe her approach to language: colorful, changing and composed of many components. Consequently, my search to unravel Escofet's feminine discourse uses a definition that embraces its kaleidoscopic nature. My approach is grounded in the theoretical insights of Helene Cixous, first and primary disseminator of the concept of feminine discourse, who maintains that feminine writing is elusive and must be approached from different angles. Therefore, my thesis also encompasses a study of the themes and images created by language and employed in narration that are particular or characteristic of feminine writing. I am especially interested in her images of women, and their sexuality, and the effects of simulacra on feminine identity. The few critics who have studied Escofet's

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essential element of her theater but the criticism that does exist on Escofet's work does not explain this aspect of her theater in depth.

Since this dissertation examines Escofet's feminine discourse, my discussion of her drama focuses exclusively on the written text. As Sue Ellen Case explains, in theater, semiotics greatly modifies the written text

producing other equally valid texts:

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I do not disregard the importance of the performance texts or any of the others mentioned by Case for they all constitute different objects of study. However, in order to analyze Escofet's language and not a director's, an actor's or an audience's interpretation of her discourse, these other texts, besides posing a question of access.

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While Case speaks on theater in general, Kirsten Nigro elaborates in more detail on the challenges of critically approaching Latin American Theater. She advises the "armchair" reader {North American university critic) who only has access to the written text to be "self conscious about critical methods and tasks" ("On Reading..." 109) always keeping in sight the limitations of literary analysis for an object destined to be performed. There is a lack of opportunity to view Argentine plays in the United States and Escofet's plays have only rarely been performed.

The analysis of performance of Escofet's plays represents a fruitful avenue of scholarly investigation but does not fall within the scope of this dissertation.


Cristina Escofet began acting when she was fifteen.

She soon moved to writing and by the 1980s started publishing theater for children including the plays Cyrano and Las valijas de Ulises. Escofet wrote her first and only novel to date in 1984, Primera Piel and she debuted as a playwright for adults in 1985 when she presented Te de tias in Buenos Aires as part of Teatro Abierto, the

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during the last dictatorship.^ This theater festival allowed new dramatists to showcase their talents, this particularly being the case in 1985, while more consecrated artists solidified their fame (Pross 86). Escofet's piece had passed the highly selective application process in which forty dramatists had submitted plays and only ten were selected to present their work. The following

playwrights and directors participated in 1985:

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'Hernan Vidal defines and elaborates the following about Teatro


Como parte de una movilizacion social mas amplia, el Teatro Abierto siguio a las primeras huelgas obreras de 1980. Estas acciones han sido consideradas indice de que la oposicion ya perdia miedo a la represion dictatorial y estaba dispuesta a expresar abiertamente demandas de reivindicacioes acalladas.

Como desafio de significacion publica, se atribuye el origen del Teatro Abierto al hecho de que autoridades de la dictadura habian clausurado la carrera de dramaturgia argentina contemporanea en el Conservatorio Dramatico y descartaban la representacion de obras de autores nacionales en un teatro oficial (el Teatro San Martin) con el pretexto de que la dramaturgia argentina no existia. (15) Osvlado Pellettieri, commenting on the 1985 cycle reports that

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Therefore, Escofet's participation in Teatro Abierto validated her status as an emerging Argentine dramatist by placing her among the most important Argentine playwrights Escofet published her first volume of theater in 1994 The anthology includes Te de tias. Solas en la madriguera^, Nunca usaras medias de seda, Ritos del corazon, and Senoritas en concierto.^ All five of these plays focus on women's issues. The Mexican critic and dramaturg Felipe Galvan published Escofet's play Los fantasmas del heroe in his anthology Dialogos Dramaturgicos Mexico-Argentina (2000). In the spring of 2000 Escofet also published a collection of essays and reflections titled Arquetipos, modelos para desarmar: Palabras desde el genero in which she further analyzes the feminist themes developed in her ^ This play debuted in June of 1988 in the Medio Mundo Variete.

In 1989, it was part of a theater festival celebrating women and theater in La Habana, Cuba. It also inaugurated the summer programming of the Teatro Circular in Montevideo in January of 1991.

^ This piece opened on May 10, 1993 in the I.F.T. Theater with the cooperation of Teatro General Sari Martin.

14 theater and in literature in general. Parting from Jungian theory, Escofet dismantles, analyzes and reincorporates archetypes into her critical discussion of the works by Hans Christian Anderson and William Shakespeare as well as her creative response to Frida Kahlo's artwork.

Escofet currently resides in Buenos Aires where she continues to actively write and produce plays and participate in conferences and workshops for aspiring dramatists. In August 2001 she published volume two of Arquetipos under the title Teatro which includes her most recent plays Eternity Class^ iQue paso con Bette Davis? and Las que aman hasta morir. The latter was awarded the SADE prize in 1995 (Sociedad Argentina de Escritores). Escofet's piece. Eternity Class, won an award from New York University in 2001 and was published in the anthology Obras Argentinas Premiadas en New York.

Just recently Escofet's theater has become an object of academic and critical study in the United States.

During the IV Congreso de Teatro Latinoamericano held at the University of Kansas March 29*^*^ through April 1^^ 2000, a conference that Escofet attended, an entire session was dedicated to her work and the playwright herself spoke

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la mirada de Beatriz Mosquera y de Gladys Ravalle".

Furthermore, she presented a video of one of her "teatro en transito"^ pieces, A traves de Frida, and she participated in a round-table discussion with the Argentine playwright Eduardo Rovner and Osvaldo Pellettieri, arguably the most important contemporary Argentine theater critic.

No less an authority than the distinguished dramatist Osvaldo Dragiin has spoken eloquently of the work of

Cristina Escofet:

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* In an interview that I conducted with Escofet, she explains

that "teatro en transito" is:

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