Puerto Rican Nation-Building Literature:
Impossible Romance

Zilkia Janer

Foreword by Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Series Editor
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"An important, original, and innovative book. . . . The author breaks new ground by recovering an almost forgotten literature and exposing the different stories and possibilities imagined for Puerto Rico by their authors."--Arlene Davila, New York University

Through critical readings of fiction by celebrated Puerto Rican writers and by little-known intellectual women and workers, Zilkia Janer offers new insights into the relationship between nationalism and colonialism. As Janer analyzes aspects of race, class, gender, and sexuality in literature from the past two centuries, she shows how different social groups imagined themselves and the island in its transition from Spanish to U.S. colonial rule.

The new colonial situation challenged the Creole conception of the island as a great family. Stories of seduction, rape, unfulfilled manhood, and impossible romance began to articulate the difficulties of nation building. Janer explores the clash between the women’s and workers’ movements and the Creole national project, and she argues that subaltern intellectuals helped to reconstruct and consolidate the dominant national-identity discourse on the island.

She concludes that in the case of Puerto Rico, nationalism actually subordinated other social movements and legitimized political inequality with the United States. As a result, she exposes the contradictions of a national-identity discourse in a colonial context. With its focus on works of social protest, this book expands the corpus of texts used in the study of Puerto Rican fiction beyond the literary canon. It will be of interest to scholars of Latin American and Caribbean literature, history, and culture.

Zilkia Janer is assistant professor of Spanish at Hofstra University.
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