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Winter 2016

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Decimonónica: revista de producción cultural hispánica decimonónica


This article explores the evolution of author Cirilo Villaverde’s racial republican thinking as it develops through the three Cecilia Valdés texts. Contending that—precisely because the incest trope is absent from the 1839 works—an examination of the two earlier versions of the story can shed light on the troubling place of consanguinity in the 1882 novel, I consider the three Cecilia texts in light of the genre that theorist Doris Sommer terms “foundational romances,” or, works in which marriage between members of opposing factions in the national body acts as an allegory for national consolidation. After situating Villaverde in the context of nineteenth-century Cuban creole reformer Domingo del Monte’s antislavery literary tertulia, this article explains how the three Cecilia texts break with the rules of the transAmerican foundational romance genre through a series of containment devices (most notably, the incest in the 1882 novel) that prevent the narrators from tying up their stories’ loose ends. I note that, in all three texts, the narratives’ inconclusive natures result in the protagonists’ inability to reproduce under circumstances propitious to the founding of the interracial nation—a political dream deferred whose fruitful realization seemed less and less likely as the nineteenth century progressed. With Villaverde’s seeming incapability to bring his interracial romances to a neat, nationally reproductive conclusion in mind, I will argue that the incest in the 1882 Cecilia text acts as an intervention into the hemispheric foundational romance genre, rejecting the mid-nineteenth century dream of national consolidation under the creole elite as blind to the racial realities of the New World.





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Originally published in Decimonónica vol. 13, no. 1 (2016), and available from the publisher at


Decimonónica 13.1 (2016): 66-86. Copyright © 2016 Decimonónica and Thomas Genova. All rights reserved. This work may be used with this footer included for noncommercial purposes only. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically in whole or in part without express written permission from Decimonónica. This electronic publishing model depends on mutual trust between user and publisher.

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