Date of Award

Spring 6-6-2020

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Traynor Hansen

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Yelena Bailey


Monster theory; Chicanx literature; Feminist literature; Folklore


La Llorona’s ghostly figure has haunted the pages of Chicanx literature for years as the monstrous woman. While her story shifts forms depending on the cultural context, the essentials remain: she was a woman, wronged by the father of her children, who now wanders the rivers at night wailing for the two children she drowned in anger, grief, or desperation. She has often been considered a monstrous figure whose function has been to regulate female identity. However, authors like Gloria Anzaldúa, Sandra Cisneros, and Helena María Viramontes have sought to reclaim this ghostly visage from the grasp of patriarchal structures that condemn La Llorona’s actions. Anzaldúa’s poem “My Black Angelos”, Cisneros’ short story “Woman Hollering Creek,” and Viramontes’ short story “The Cariboo Cafe” revise La Llorona to acknowledge the female agency she represents. While critics have focused on feminine agency in these works, the function of the monstrous has often been overlooked. The monstrous usually refers to something feared or uncanny where oftentimes it is marginalized groups whose bodies represent cultural fears, but in these cases the monstrous is reimagined as a tool for agency. Through the lens of monster theory, and drawing on the theories of Jeffrey Cohen, Cristina Santos, and Luce Irigaray, this paper argues that Anzaldúa’s, Cisneros’, and Viramontes’ representations of La Llorona develop female agency and community just as other critics have mentioned, but they also complicate monster theory by resituating the subjectivity to account for the positive monster. Through this, monster theory’s dependence on a self/other dichotomy falls away and, with it, La Llorona’s position as only a monster to be feared. Instead, these representations of La Llorona invite Chicanx women into the community of the monstrous, where Cisneros, Anzaldúa, and Viramontes transform it from an androcentric space of “othering” and oppression to one of belonging and power.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Honors Program.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.


Copyright Status