Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Óscar Rivera-Rodas

Committee Members

Nuria Cruz-Cámara, Euridice Silva-Filho, Jon Shefner


This dissertation studies selected poems written between 1950 and 1975 by Octavio Paz and Rosario Castellanos, two major Mexican writers of the twentieth century. Paz is considered one of the leading figures of Mexican literature, while Castellanos gained prominence in her homeland as a feminist figure. Using close reading as the predominant approach, this study investigates the complex issues of love and sexuality from the perspective of the poetical voice. It also emphasizes the manner in which the boundaries produced by love and sexuality underscore certain ambiguities. Indeed, these two poets search for identity and happiness in various ways, while questioning sincerity and investigating true love, a love concerned with heart and parity. In a very personal way, both authors use recurrent metaphors and comparisons about love and sexuality that combine traditional images of the Occident with images from Mexico. In their attempts to offer definitions of love and sexuality, Paz and Castellanos inevitably incorporate diverse influences into traditional stereotypes, and in doing so, place Mexican poetry within a broader context.

At the same time, this dissertation addresses the differences between these two poets. On the one hand, Paz exalts love and sexuality as a constructive characteristic of the human being in an almost sacred quest, thereby demonstrating his awareness of literary tradition and humanistic belief in poetry. Concurrently, on the other hand, Castellanos is relentless in her search for love and acceptance by men, thus subjecting herself to the manipulation of a patriarchal society, which sought to reaffirm the immobility of the woman by demanding that she conforms to a male-dominated literary canon. Castellanos’s voice is that of a proud yet pleading, lamenting, rejected lover, although the register of her poetic voice transcends gender barriers, incorporates the canon, and speaks as a fully self-validating subject. Paz sees the pleasures in, while Castellanos measures the risks and dangers at stake with the encounter of the other.

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