Rosario Ferre's "The Youngest Doll": on women, dolls, golems and cyborgs.
--Jean Baudrillard, Simulations
The quite apocalyptic reading of contemporary culture expressed by the French critic Jean Baudrillard introduces the notion of the postmodern reality which gradually and imperceptibly modifies our senses and turns into its own reflection. "It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody," he claims, but "a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself" (4). The consequence is the replacement of the real by its "operational double" and a deliberate acceptance of a surrogate reality, also called the "hyperreal." This somber scenario does not seem to offer any comfort as we look around us or gaze towards the future, especially if the real we are talking about is a woman. What will the future be if the referential dimension that is to disappear, or has already vanished in the age of simulation, is a woman? Can the system go on without her? Or could it be that this scenario is not that recent, and in the imaginary world of desires she has already been replaced by her replica?
The fact is that for centuries man has been considering modes of procreation without female participation. The Medieval Kabbalists attempted to learn the power of creation from their god and use it in forming a simulacrum of a human being, called the golem.(1) While Jewish mystics were working on the magical combination of syllables and words that would bring a golem to life, alchemists like Paracelsus concentrated on the mixture of the right chemical ingredients in the production of the homunculus. With the advancement of science and technology, mainly after the Industrial Revolution, the robot was created.(2) What all of these creations--golems, homunculi, automata, robots--have in common is the symbolic desire of their male master to avoid the female role in the process of procreation and, therefore, the urgency to prove that men have the sole power in creation.
The process of simulation, in both Baudrillard's and the literal sense of the word, involves two moments: 1) the physical formation of the body and 2) its animation. The first assumes the actual shaping and structuring of the materials such as dust, mud, clay, wood, corn, metal, wax, pieces of cadavers, chemical substances, urine, semen, blood, air and even dreams. This step does not require any special creative powers and can be accomplished by virtually anyone. However, in order to perform the second stage of creation, one needs to be initiated and one must have a higher knowledge than the rest of ordinary humans. Magicians, mystics, alchemists or more recently scientists, all qualify for the performance of the fabrication of the simulacra. Either a magical word--the name of God--is uttered, or some kind of spark--either electrical or emotional--can be used to "vivify" the body. In most of the Jewish mystical accounts and in the majority of literary texts, both the creator and the golem are of the male gender. Although both stages are essential for the successful production of the golem, there is an obvious dichotomy between the body and the spirit. Etymologically, the inferior step related to the formation of the matter still preserves the traces of female presence. Mother and matter come from the same Indo-European root me which refers to physical substance. Moreover, earth as a feminine element is juxtaposed with the spirit, identified as a masculine element and the actual life giver (Scholem 191).(3)
The link between the creator and the creature is marked by three conceptual struggles: philosophical (god-man), social (father-son) and psychological (super ego-ego). A clear example of these relationships from Jewish mystical and magical traditions is the golem described by Jakob Grimm in 1808 (Scholem 15). In this particular romantically tinted account, a golem is created out of clay and brought to life after uttering the magical Shemhamphoras. He is a servant and the word emeth (truth) is written on his forehead so that if he grows too much or becomes disobedient, the first letter can be erased--meth (he is dead) appearing thereafter--and he would turn into clay again. However, in spite of all the precautions, it happened once that the golem grew too much and no one could reach his forehead. The master told him to take off his boots and as soon as he bent down he erased the letter e. The golem then turned to clay and came crashing down on the master and destroyed him as well. Interestingly enough, it is precisely the female element, earth, that ruins both the man and the male golem.
Spanish-American literary tradmtion also provides interesting accounts of the genesis of the man-like creature. Borges' well known story "Circular Ruins" is based upon the premise of the vanity of the creator convinced of his own uniqueness (Borges 45-50). After a long selection process, the magician produces a "son" out of dreams and animates him by enunciating the right, omnipotent word. Occasionally he feels sorry for the creature since it is "only" a product of his dreams and does not have a real existence. Soon after he is humiliated by the discovery that his own nature is illusory as well, and that he is just someone else's dream.(4) As Chilean poet and critic Oscar Hahn points out, the key word of the newly acquired "master's" identity--humiliated--is etymologically related to earth, humus (Hahn 86-87), which again marks the female destructive component.
Another literary example of golem production--Quiroga's story "Artificial Man"--relates prolonged endeavors by three international scientists to create a man. In this particular case the body is produced in a laboratory and animated by the pain conducted from another tortured human being. After overloading the emotional battery of the newly created man, the scientist-in-chief tries to alleviate his "son's" pain and connects himself to the creature. They both die during the labor process.
As Baudrillard points out in his analysis of postmodern culture, which is characterized by processing our ultimate desires through the media, "counterfeit and reproduction imply always an anguish, a disquieting foreignness." Furthermore, he contends that "all reproduction implies therefore a kind of black magic, from the fact of being seduced by one's own image in the water, like Narcissus, to being haunted by the double" (Baudrillard 153). In terms of the golem myth this postmodern syndrome translates into a not-so-recent practice of endless reproduction of man himself through the creation of a tattooed body. That body, inscribed by the uncanny desire of the creator, bears its textual signature--for it is through the pronunciation or the inscription of the "true" word that the golem becomes alive--and is the ultimate artifice. The few examples that I have mentioned all relate the same basic yearning of the master's own replication. The sexuality of the creature becomes important when he reaches puberty, and when upon entering manhood he demands rights equal to those of his "father".(5) Borges' golem, for example, is sent to another temple where he matures and the imminent friction between two possible creators (fathers) is consequently avoided.
In the case of the female golem, the relationship changes drastically. She becomes a reified representation of the other, a simulacrum whose purpose is to substitute for the "real" woman and offer the fulfillment of sexual desire of the creator (often as an evasion of some kind of societal censorship). She does not grow nor age, but is created as an already attractive, physically mature female.
There are not many accounts of the female golem in the Jewish mystical tradition. Moshe Idel's authoritative study Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions On the Artificial Anthropoid refers to only two such cases where woman was created by the combination of letters. One is a book by R. Joseph Shelomo del Medigo, Mazref le-Hokhmah, written in 1625 and the other is R. Isaiah ben Abraham ha-Levi Horwitz's Shenei Luhot ha-Berit, composed between 1630 and 1645 (232-41).
Joseph Shelomo del Medigo refers to the Pseudo-Rabad Commentary on Sefer Yezirah, The Book of Creation, and notices that
They said about R. S[helomo] ben Gabirol, that he created a woman, and she waited on him. When he was denounced to the authorities, he showed them that she was not a perfect creature, and [then] he turned her to her original [state], to the pieces and hinges of wood, out of which she was built up. And similar traditions [shemu'ot] [or rumors] are numerous in the mouth of everyone, especially in the land of Ashkenaz. (Idel 233)
While this example only hints at the possibility of the sexual use of the female golem, the other is quite explicit about it. The issue is raised when Joseph denounces his brothers for having incestuous relationships. According to the halakhic law close relatives were not allowed to have intercourse with the same woman; if they did, it was considered incest. However--through a euphemism of "walking with someone" which denotes sexual relationship--R. Isaiah ben Abraham ha-Levi Horwitz's text explains that
the tribes [i.e., the brothers] have created a female using the combination of letters from Sefer Yezirah. They were walking with her. But Joseph, who was not aware of it [the fact that she was created by Sefer Yezirah], thought that she was a woman born from a father and mother, and he thus came and announced to his father that they were suspect of committing incest. (Idel 236)
While the woman's status as a golem saves Joseph from being a liar and exonerates his brothers from charges of incest, it also licenses their abuse of her since none of the legal prohibitions of the society apply to the golem.
Spanish American literary tradition offers several impressive examples of the production of the female golem by the male creator. In the 1940s, Uruguayan writer Felisberto Hernandez wrote a long story "Las Hortensias" in which a wealthy, eccentric Horacio collects dolls that are a "little bit bigger than normal women" (Hernandez 10).(6) His helpers arrange them in special glass cases so that he can imagine their life stories. The space of his mind transforms into a true movie screen, but occasionally he notices that the dolls actually move. At one point the protagonist desires something more real than a cold-to-the-touch mannequin, and orders that his favorite doll Hortensia, who is identical to his wife Maria Hortensia, be improved. She is returned softer and warm-bodied and eventually Horacio starts having a sexual relationship with her. While Horacio's wife participated in most games with dolls that they had played earlier, she cannot accept this kind of transgression and leaves him. For her, Hortensia is a doll, maybe a substitute for a daughter she never had, but definitely only a simulacrum of the real. Eventually, she reconciles with Horacio who, after experiencing the excitement of having a "perfect woman," can never be the same; one day he walks away, towards the glass doll case and disappears.
Hernandez's story offers a scenario in which the real, flesh and bone woman coexists with the imaginary one. She willingly offers her image and part of her symbolic identity--the name Hortensia--to the doll, but soon after starts slowly losing her own identity and position as Horacio's wife. At the end, Horacio joins the world behind the glass wall, a world in which the female golem awaits him. In the process his human identity is stripped away, and he enters the world of the hyper-real.
A very interesting case of the golem creation is offered in Carlos Fuentes' novel Aura. Here, the producer of the golem and the golem itself are female. However, I would argue that the second person point of view that introduces and leads the reader through the narrative is clearly gendered as male and consequently projects its own fears in relation to women.(7)
The story "Anuncio" by the Mexican author Juan Jose Arreola and the novella "Chatanooga Choochoo" by the Chilean author Jose Donoso both, in their own way, offer an avatar of the golem myth. All of these narratives introduce the original woman who coexists with the simulacrum. And yet, to use Baudrillard's term, it is "the artificial resurrection" that has a perfect body and gets surrounded with erotic attention.
The narcissistic creation of the Other has developed in two discursive directions: as a conception of the desired self in the case of the male golem, and as a projection of the object of pleasure in the case of the female golem. This is not to say that there is no pleasure in the production of the male version of the myth. However, it is quite clear that while the intellectual enthusiasm is tied to the male golem, the erotic excitement is being strictly preserved for the literary "daughters".
Golems are not born; they are made in a solitary act that denies the role of the woman in the creation of "real" life. The role of the mother is subsumed by the father who simulates conception by literary means. As Plato constructs it in his parable of the cave, a divine paternal logos substitutes for the maternal womb.(8) Although, according to some accounts, the earth from which the golem is made must be virginal, the female presence is clearly erased from the creation of the golem (Scholem 185). Contrary to male golems, female golems have diligently crafted and perfected bodies, while their souls/minds receive almost no attention whatsoever. Their purpose, consequently, is not to engage in a sophisticated debate with their Demiurge, but to please him sexually. As Hernandez's story well establishes, the cultural icon of the doll has at least two different faces that are determined by the gender of the doll's proprietor. In the case of a woman, it is usually a girl who plays with dolls and through the game learns about motherhood and other activities related to the domestic sphere of life. However, in the case of a mature man, she fulfills the role of a sexual surrogate and is highly eroticized. In both cases, the doll is a hybrid simulacrum which endlessly repeats the image of the woman as an object.
Can the doll be subversive? Can such a powerful cultural icon actually play a liberating role in rescuing women from patriarchal oppression? Rosario Ferre's story "The Youngest Doll" carries a brilliant feminist revision of the traditional role that the image of the mannequin embodies?
The story evolves around a beautiful woman from an old impoverished sugarcane aristocracy who was stung by an uncanny prawn during her bath in the river. Although the family doctor assures her that she will be fine, her leg seems more and more grotesque as time passes. Eventually she realizes that her disability is permanent and dedicates herself to bringing up her sister's nine daughters. More precisely, she starts making dolls whose size is identical to the size of her nieces. Every year she makes one doll for each niece. The last one is always given to the girl on her wedding day, accompanied by a kiss on the forehead and the mysterious words: "Here is your Easter Sunday" (4). In the meantime the family doctor starts introducing to the business his own son returned back after completing his medical training. The young doctor soon discovers that the woman's infected leg could have been cured, but his father explains that "the prawn has been paying for his education these twenty years" (4). When the young doctor and the niece decide to get married, the last doll is already completed. She is different from any previous doll in the sense that her pupils contain diamond teardrops and that her body is warm. The couple moves to the town, and the bride starts spending days in the house slowly discovering that her husband was only interested in her social status. Soon thereafter the doll disappears and the wife's boring life continues without any major changes. The story closes with the image of a husband who, after noticing that the same years that have made him age considerably have not altered his wife's young body, places his stethoscope over her chest, hears the sound of the water and sees the antennae of the uncanny prawn approaching from her eyes.
The central image of the story is that of a doll. She is female and her creator is of the same sex. The youngest niece represents the original woman who translates part of her identity to the replica. Although the man does play a major role in this avatar of the golem myth, the traditional paradigm is significantly altered. None of the characters have personal names, which facilitates the shifting of their respective identities. The two worlds that coexist in the space of the story are clearly male and female. Thus, the doctor merges with his son, and the aunt transgresses the limits of her own alienated body through the doll that will eventually acquire its proper meaning as a decoration and consequently allow the niece to leave the claustrophobic space of her husband's house.
The first dolls that the aunt produces for her nine nieces are "just plain dolls" (2) and significantly the word that is used to describe the process is "making" (2).(10) We can speculate that they were created so that the girls could play with them, which is traditionally a female activity. Dolls were made out of common materials such as "cottony stuffing from the gourd tree in the garden and stray buttons sewn on for eyes" (2). However, as the girls become more mature, the dolls start changing. The text is very specific about this shift and their completion is now described as a birth: "The birth of a new doll was always cause for a ritual celebration, which explains why it never occurred to the aunt to sell them for a profit, even when the girls had grown up and the family was beginning to fall into need" (2, emphasis mine). The textual personification already suggests that the second stage of the golem production--animation--is in effect. The youngest and the last doll is so well crafted and human-like, that her body is warm and she has a full set of the niece's baby teeth. The sharing of body parts (teeth) insinuates the same subjectivity behind two apparently identical images. To paraphrase Julia Emberley, the aunt "produce[s] a reality of the real through the image"; she produces the "real image" of her niece (42). The fashioning of the "real image" is what Baudrillard defines as simulation, and the product is the simulacra.(11) He talks about the "murderous capacity of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity" (10). The traditional scheme of the golem myth accurately reflects these fears. The master shapes and gives life to his intellectual (textual) progeny, who, in turn, annihilates that same creator while being destroyed. Thus, to Baudrillard's claim that every sign is a death sentence for the reference (11), I would add that every illegitimate son is a death sentence for his manufacturer. The youngest doll, however, acts as an extension of her female creator and not only avenges the damage that the patriarchy has done to her, but she also replaces her own referent (the married niece) in the stagnant and subordinate position that the newborn patriarchal generation required her to assume.
It is clear from the story that the doctor-father could have cured the aunt's disease, but he saw in the woman's injured body an opportunity for the personal growth of his own son. The sacrifice of the female body--the aunt's disease--can be read as a symptom of our culture. To quote the description of the event fully,
As a young woman she [the aunt] had often bathed in the river, but one day when the heavy rains had fed the dragontail current, she had a soft feeling of melting snow in the marrow of her bones. With her head nestled among the black rock's reverberations she could hear the slamming of salty foam on the beach mingled with the sound of the waves, and she suddenly thought that her hair had poured out to sea at last. At that very moment, she felt a sharp bite in her calf. (1)
It is not at all an exaggeration to say that this quite erotic description relates the awakening of a young woman's sexuality and its consequences. Although she often bathed in the river, this particular time was not only marked by the "sharp bite" but also by her complete immersion in the pleasure of feeling her own sexual body. Her physical self is confirmed by the sensual caresses of the waves, and she experiences an absolute identification with the surrounding water. Her body is the source of joy and satisfaction; she senses "melting snow in the marrow of her bones." The moment of her narcissistic(12) recognition of the self and its fulfillment is, however, punished by the sharp bite of the prawn that, significantly, will remain forever "hidden under the long, gauzy folds of her skirt" (1). Furthermore, that fatal prawn "stripped her of all vanity" (1), and she decides never to marry anyone. The vanity that the text is referring to is related not only to the discovery of her young, beautiful body, but also to the pleasure associated with it. Significantly, the cure could come from the male doctor, but he decides to continue her punishment. Again, many years later, it is the son of the doctor who carries on the reprisal for the aunt's moment of sexual self-discovery. The description of his encounter with the "disease" reveals even more prominently its sexual nature: "The young man lifted the starched ruffle of the aunt's skirt and looked intently at the huge ulcer which oozed a perfumed sperm from the tip of its greenish scales" (4, emphasis mine). Although the first part of the story roughly ends here (the aunt's "disease" and the reader's discovery that it could have been "cured"), the subtext of female sexuality carries over to the second part (the niece's marriage to the young doctor and her revenge). The doctor is attracted to the young woman, and they eventually get married. It is interesting to note that her reason for accepting him was, again, of a sexual nature: "She made up her mind to marry him because she was intrigued by his drowsy profile, and also because she was deathly curious to find out what dolphin flesh was like" (5, emphasis mine). Even though the text is not very specific about her findings, it is clear from the further description of her motionless life "inside the cubicle of heat" (5) that her husband's "dolphin flesh" was not what she needed. Like his father before him, the young doctor is now trying to "cure" the female erotic urge and sexual desire by neglecting and repressing them. The role that the patriarchal society has ascribed to women is passive, and a young wife is expected to remain on the balcony of the cold, square, cement house. She does not have an intrinsic value but is assigned a value as a carrier of her father's name, as a body upon which the patriarchal sign has been branded. As the text clearly states, the youngest niece was "a genuine member of the extinct sugarcane aristocracy" (6), and the only way for the doctor to step into the upper class world is by stepping over her body.
Until this moment, the niece's life metaphorically parallels the aunt's existence. They both are at the point of discovering the pleasures of female sexuality when the phallocentric law immobilizes them by making them literally sit down, either in the rocking chair or on the balcony. However, the niece does not repeat her aunt's sad and frustrating existence. The doll-like role she is forced to play in society, dressed in "muslin and lace," with her "always lowered eyelids," is now performed by the real doll. The youngest doll, the female golem fashioned by the aunt, replaces the original woman in her involuntary sedentary position and consequently alters the script written by a patriarchal hand.
The discovery, recognition and the ultimate repression of female sexuality thus becomes the central motif of this fairy-tale like story. One element that definitely contributes to that reading is the image of the female eyes.(13) While Baudrillard identifies them with the soul (Fatal 121), Freud is much more specific in his analysis of the myth of Gorgon Medusa where he "sees" her fatal head as the terrifying genitals of the Great Mother. According to the classic Greek myth, Medusa's gaze was able to turn men to stone, and after Perseus decapitated her, another goddess, Athene, wore Medusa's head on her own breast. According to some sources the hieroglyph of the Mother-syllable Maa was actually an eye, and it meant "to see." Later, the All-Seeing Eye is transferred to a male god, Horus, "and the common symbol came to be known as the Eye of Horus, also representing the phallus as the 'One-Eyed God'" (Walker 294). In the context of Ferre's story, eyeballs are the only element on the doll's body not made by the aunt. Nevertheless, she did perform a magic-like ritual with them before placing them on the doll's face:
They were mailed to her directly from Europe in all colors, but the aunt considered them useless until she had left them submerged at the bottom of the stream for a few days, so that they would learn to recognize the slightest stirring of the prawn's antennae. Only then would she carefully rinse them in ammonia water and place them, glossy as gems and nestled in a bed of cotton, at the bottom of one of her Dutch cookie tins. (3)
The magic consists in placing the other's eyes in the same place where she discovered her own sexuality--in the dragontale current of the river. There eyeballs would get acquainted with the movements of the prawn's antennae symbolizing the experience that the aunt never had the opportunity of gaining, since at the moment she discovered her sexuality she was punished. In that sense I would partially agree with the Freudian interpretation that identifies them with the horrifying genitals of the Great Mother.(14) Eventually, the revenge will come precisely from these eyeballs, and maybe turn the doctor into a stone. In any case, if not literally, they will without a doubt metaphorically petrify him. For the doctor (Freud, too), genitals-eyes-gaze become the unbearable and fearful site from which the punishment will come. For the women, however, it contains the relationship to the mother and the power of female sexuality that cannot be repressed.
Another significant scene from Ferre's story also confirms this line of reading. After the wedding and the frustrating move to the city, the bride discovers that "it wasn't just her husband's silhouette that was made of paper, but his soul as well" (5). He actually "pried out the doll's eyes with the tip of his scalpel and pawned them for a fancy gold pocket watch with a long embossed chain" (5). On the surface, this act could be explained by simple greed, since the pupils were made out of diamonds. However, it should also be noted that the symbolic castration is performed with the scalpel, the iconic instrument of the medical profession that purposefully misdiagnosed the aunt's disease. The consequence of the act is the fact that the youngest niece will from that moment on keep "her gaze modestly lowered," just the way the patriarchal society prefers women to do.
The only moment when the doll lifts her eyelids is at the end of the story when the doctor places his stethoscope over her heart. The dormant golem is finally acting out the role that her creator envisioned, and at that precise instant "out of empty sockets of her eyes came the frenzied antennae of all those prawns" (6). As I suggested earlier in this reading of Rosario Ferre's story, the female revenge is imminent. However, as to what the revenge actually is, the text leaves that open for speculation.
The exchange of societal roles between the youngest niece and her replica occurred in the past, probably right around the time when the doctor inquired about the sudden disappearance of the doll. He was offered a significant amount of money for the porcelain face and hands of the doll, but his wife answers that ants have eaten her after discovering that she is filled with honey. In disbelief, the doctor searches for the doll everywhere; he even digs around the house, but from then on there is only one female body in his house. The body, I suggest, is that of the female golem--the youngest doll.
One interesting question remains: Where did the youngest niece go? Is there a place in which she could exist as a human being equal to the others of the opposite sex? The answer, like the actual place, probably awaits somewhere out of the limits of Ferre's text. The new socioeconomic structure that the doctor's son, significantly educated "up north" (4), represents, is appropriately--and very much within the spirit of this discussion of the image of the doll--described in a story "Letter" from the same collection as "an island populated by dolls" (Ferre 137).(15) The husband, repeatedly identified with a "paper silhouette" (5), fits into this new world, but the young rebellious woman curious about her own sexuality cannot co-exist with him. Consequently, it is impossible to inscribe a liberated female subject into a context of repression. The new space, still impossible to describe with alienated phallocentric language, with "words infused with patriarchal values" (Velez) is left blank after the end of the story; the reader is free to create it according to his/her own desires and imagination. In the meantime the body of the story "The Youngest Doll" cannot offer a safe place for the woman's desire, which is considered disruptive and punishable. However, as French psychoanalyst and critic Helene Cixous asserts, "when the 'repressed' of their [patriarchal] culture and their society returns, it's an explosive, utterly destructive staggering return, with a force never yet unleashed and equal to the most forbidding of suppressions" (256). That force is insinuated in the open-ended encounter between the young doctor and the "frenzied antennae of all those prawns" (6). The new space that opens up after the voice of the narrator vanishes, the (still) simulated space, although blank, is not impregnated by the silence, but by the fresh voices speaking in tongues that can freely read and fulfill their bodies and desires. Maybe then this fairy tale with a really bitter taste of reality will finally turn into a story with a true happy-end.
Read through the prism of the golem myth, Ferre's story represents a powerful cultural deconstruction of an everlasting patriarchal yearning to appropriate the female body and its reproductive function. The male desire to be sole creators not only of the characters but of people, too, is magnificently expressed in the image of the golem: there is a body shaped by their hands, and yet only a special word can give it life. Ferre's feminist translation of the golem fable into a socio-politically sensitive space resonant with the United States-Puerto Rico relationship raises some additional questions, such as the feasibility of the female existence in a subaltern capitalist society based on gender equality. How to reconstitute the female body and consequently female identity in the simulated society is a corollary to that question. One possible answer is Donna Haraway's meditation on patriarchal capitalism and state socialism.(16) These are societies that have produced the hybrid image of the machine and the organism, simply called the cyborg. It is the very final and rebellious offspring of the golem, the one that has completely rejected and overcome the Father, the Paradise Lost, the Oedipus complex, and also, the gender differences. The other possibility, definitely more utopian, is the creation of the context in which the exchange will be allowed, where speechlessness will be voluntary, where masters will vanish, and where values will be human. There, the doll would be only a doll.
1. My study of Rosario Ferre's story is part of a book-length project that analyzes the cultural construction and representation of women in the context of Latin American literature. See also my article, "From Golem to Plastisex: Analytical Survey of the Spanish American Fantastic Literature," in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts (forthcoming, Fall 1994), which focuses primarily on the relationship between the male creator and a differently gendered creature, i.e. male creator and female golem.
2. For an excellent overview of the motif of the artificially created human-like being, consult the study by Robert Plank.
3. It is interesting to mention that the earth from which the body was made had to be virginal (Scholem 185).
4. In a very insightful article, "Golem y vanidad en dos textos de Borges," Chilean poet and critic Oscar Hahn does in-depth analysis of the troubled identity of the creator upon his discovery of his shameful status as a simulacrum (Hahn 75-87).
5. In Robert Plank's paraphrase of a famous account of Rabbi Judah Loew, it is mentioned that "a decision [about what to do with a golem] had to be reached by the time he had served for thirteen years, that is, when he attained the age at which a Jewish boy would be bar mitzvah (received into the synagogue)" (Plank 15). This is definitely the age when a sexually maturing "son" is starting to express his strong identification with the father and the desire to replace him. The outcome, as I have pointed out, is usually devastating for both.
6. All the translations from Hernandez are my own.
7. The fact that the young protagonist Felipe Montero is actually hired to decipher General Llorente's manuscripts adds a well known dimension of the golem myth. In a way, the golem Aura is becoming more and more "alive" as the process of reading is progressing.
8. In her study of Western philosophical thought, Speculum of the Other Woman, Luce Irigaray gives an extraordinary feminist analysis of Plato's hustera.
9. The original Spanish version of Ferre's story was published in 1976 in Mexico. This particular story has been anthologized numerous times and most of the critics refer to it in their analysis of Rosario Ferre's opus. However, to my knowledge, there have been few articles dedicated in their entirety to a close reading of this particular text. One such article is by Yvette Lopez, " 'La muneca menor': Ceremonias y Transformaciones en un cuento de Rosario Ferre," Explicacion de Textos Literatios 5.11(1) (1982-1983): 49-58. Among critics who analyze this story as part of the collection Papeles de Pandora are Margarita Fernandez Olmos, Luz Maria Umpierre, Lisa Davis, Carmen Vega Carney, Maria-Ines Lagos-Pope and Diana Velez.
10. Number nine, referring to the number of nieces, could be seen as a metaphoric reflection of the nine formative months needed for the full development of the fetus in the womb.
11. Baudrillard distinguishes between two related processes: reigning or dissimulating, which does not affect the reality principle, and simulation which "threatens the difference between 'real' and 'imaginary'" (5).
12. Narcissistic recognition should be seen as a conditio sine qua non towards establishing self-esteem.
13. The title of Diana Velez's inspiring book Reclaiming Medusa without a doubt hints towards the possibility of reversing the traditional symbolism, and consequently the gender roles, associated with Medusa's eyes; Diana Velez, Reclaiming Medusa: Short Stories by Contemporary Puerto Rican Women Writers (San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1988).
14. The identification of the eye loss with castration appears prominently in Freud's work, and it is most evident in his analysis of the Oedipus myth. In terms of the image of the doll, Freud is very specific about the eye symbolism when he discusses Olympia from Hoffmann's "The Sand Man" (in Freud's essay, "The 'Uncanny'").
15. The translation is my own.
16. Donna Haraway brings up a similar problem of the reconstitution and healing of the female body in a high-tech society. See her essay, "A Manifesto for Cyborgs."
Baudrillard, Jean. Fatal Strategies. New York: Semiotext(e)/Pluto, 1990.
-----. Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983.
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KSENIJA BILBIJA, Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Wisconsin, has co-translated a book of stories by Mario Benedetti from Spanish to Serbian; her translations of books by Luisa Valenzuela and Maria Luisa Bombal are forthcoming. She has published critical essays in both anthologies and journals, including Confluencia, INTI: Revista de Literatura Hispanica, Modern Poetry in Translations, and Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts.
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|Title Annotation:||Special Issue: Puerto Rican Women Writers|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1994|
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