Ordiz I (2020) Monstrous/Wondrous Transformations of the Female Body: A Reading of Daniela Tarazona's El animal sobre la piedra and the Gothic. In: González AA & Bussing López IM (eds.) Doubles and Hybrids in Latin American Gothic. Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature, 105. New York and Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 30-43. https://www.crcpress.com/Doubles-and-Hybrids-in-Latin-American-Gothic/Gonzalez-Lopez/p/book/9780367406332
After the death of her mother, a woman travels to a beach to escape from her emotional suffering. In this new setting, she begins to experience a number of physical transformations: her skin becomes green and coarse, her limbs are too flexible to be human, and her senses are inexplicably altered. As she slowly metamorphoses into a reptile, leaving the reality of her woman’s body behind, she heals her emotional pain and finds a new identity.
This is the story of Irma, the reptile-woman in Daniela Tarazona’s El animal sobre la piedra (2009). This work has been defined as “literatura fantástica” [fantastic literature] (Díez Cobo) and as “ficción de lo inusual” [fiction of the unusual] (Alemany Bay); my analysis, however, proposes an understanding of the novel as Gothic fiction and, more specifically, as belonging to a type of (subversive and rebellious) Gothic written by women in Spanish-speaking countries in the 21st century. In this sense, the non-mimetic imagination allows these women to represent femaleness and the feminine which have not only been underrepresented, but also colonized by the male imaginary. By subverting the binary systems that reduce women’s experience to archetypal images generated in a phallogocentric system, El animal suggests the possibility of other models to understand the female body outside of these imprisoning definitions. Irma’s body becomes fluid, ever-changing, and powerful because of its ability to adapt and welcome difference.
A reading of El animal from the Gothic tradition, moreover, allows a theorization of the protagonist’s incarceration and metamorphosis as gendered processes. Irma becomes a Gothic heroine who manages to escape the prison of her own reality by welcoming the Other into the self, only to realize there is no real possibility of breaking out of the oppressive system of patriarchal domination. This system, therefore, becomes the real Gothic monster. In her process of becoming Other, however, Irma has managed to define herself, her body, her reality, and even her imagination though a process of self-reflection that becomes subversive in itself. The Gothic allows us to define the transgressive possibility of the literary text (and, more specifically, of Irma’s account of her own story) and to re-discover the spaces of terror: the house haunted by the dead mother, the female subject imprisoned by the body, and the asylum as the final assault of the patriarchal.