Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
When it comes to historical fiction, the lines between the real and the imagined are blurred. In a text dealing with history, historical events and facts are purported to be true because they fit into the created story structure; fiction complicates matters by picking and choosing the events it wants to deem facts. In this thesis, I will consider how two works centered on the history of the Dominican Republic – Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies (1994) and Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) – reconsider the stories they tell in terms of postmodern historiography and fiction. Furthermore, I will examine how both authors utilize memory to present and progress the theoretical aims of their texts, focusing on the interwoven powers of individual and collective memory. In the first chapter of my thesis, I will examine the generic tendencies and classification of both Butterflies and Oscar Wao, and discuss how both texts qualify as what theorist Linda Hutcheon terms “historiographic metafiction.” My second chapter focuses on Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, examining how Alvarez utilizes individual and collective memory to convey her historiography and to bring awareness of the Mirabal sisters to the United States’ collective conscience. Junot Díaz similarly considers the relationship between individual and collective thought, and both authors comment on the consequences of cultural trauma in individual and collective situations. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao will be the focus of my third chapter as I discuss issues of individual and collective memory tied to the power of physical documentation. In the conclusion, I will stress how the importance of documentation naturally pushes its way outside Oscar Wao to metafictionalize both Díaz’s and Alvarez's texts as they strive to represent the multiple truths of a postmodern historiography.
Feder, Kathryn, "Mnemonic Manuscripts: History and Memory in Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" (2012). Honors Theses. 59.