Title

“Detente, sombra”: The Feminist Detective Fiction of María Elvira Bermúdez

Subject Area

Hispanic Women Writers

Abstract

For readers frustrated with the longstanding dominance of male characters, male writers, and masculinist values in Latin American crime fiction, Mexican author María Elvira Bermúdez’s “Detente, sombra,” first published in 1961, appears as a welcome breath of fresh air. Not only the detective, the murderer, and the victim, but the multiple suspects, their lawyers, clerks, taxi drivers, in short an astounding array of characters, are all women. But despite the considerable interest of this story and Bermúdez’s own influence as a critic and editor of Mexican detective fiction, “Detente, sombra” and her other stories and novels are now largely forgotten.

A narrative centered on a murder and involving intrigue, lies, and jealousy can hardly be considered utopian. Nevertheless, the reimagining of Mexican society, the mutual admiration among many intelligent and accomplished female characters, the title’s reference to the poetry of Sor Juana, and cheerful interest with which amateur detective María Elena Morán investigates the case, all set “Detente, sombra” apart from most crime fiction and bring it into dialogue with other feminist utopian narratives. This paper explores the groundbreaking power of Bermúdez’s work while also identifying some of the limits of her vision with regard to sexuality, social class, and authorities of knowledge.

Brief Bio Note

Katherine Ostrom is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Spanish at Emory University, where she also teaches Portuguese. She holds a Ph.D. in Hispanic and Lusophone Literatures and Cultures from the University of Minnesota and conducts research on Latin American popular literature and film, especially contemporary crime fiction by women.

Keywords

detective fiction, women writers, Mexican literature

Location

Room 212

Presentation Year

2017

Start Date

3-24-2017 2:55 PM

Embargo

11-17-2016

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Mar 24th, 2:55 PM

“Detente, sombra”: The Feminist Detective Fiction of María Elvira Bermúdez

Room 212

For readers frustrated with the longstanding dominance of male characters, male writers, and masculinist values in Latin American crime fiction, Mexican author María Elvira Bermúdez’s “Detente, sombra,” first published in 1961, appears as a welcome breath of fresh air. Not only the detective, the murderer, and the victim, but the multiple suspects, their lawyers, clerks, taxi drivers, in short an astounding array of characters, are all women. But despite the considerable interest of this story and Bermúdez’s own influence as a critic and editor of Mexican detective fiction, “Detente, sombra” and her other stories and novels are now largely forgotten.

A narrative centered on a murder and involving intrigue, lies, and jealousy can hardly be considered utopian. Nevertheless, the reimagining of Mexican society, the mutual admiration among many intelligent and accomplished female characters, the title’s reference to the poetry of Sor Juana, and cheerful interest with which amateur detective María Elena Morán investigates the case, all set “Detente, sombra” apart from most crime fiction and bring it into dialogue with other feminist utopian narratives. This paper explores the groundbreaking power of Bermúdez’s work while also identifying some of the limits of her vision with regard to sexuality, social class, and authorities of knowledge.