[In the following essay, Byron posits that de la Parra's novel Iphigenia calls attention to the role of women in both reality and fiction.] La pretendida autora de esa nueva Ifigenia . . . [c]ometi6 es cierto, la horrible indiscreci6n de hacer editar en Paris bajo su nombre, ese diario intimo que yo habia destinado a los ojos de las polillas y a las manos amarillentas del tiempo que se sienta a leer en el fondo de las viejas gavetas. . . . Indiscreta y piadosa, antes de lanzar mi diario a todos los juicios lo retoc6 con esmero. [The supposed author of that new Iphigenia . . . committed, it is true, the horrible indiscretion of editing in Paris, under her name, that intimate diary that I had destined for the eyes of moths and for the yellow hands of time to sit down and read in the bottoms of old drawers. . . . Indiscreet and merciful, before casting my diary out for everyone to judge she touched it up with care.] -Maria Eugenia Alonso This epigraph, taken from a letter written in the voice of Teresa de la Parra's fictional heroine, reveals the extent of her play with the idea of literariness. In the tradition of Cervantes, Swift, and Austen, Parra calls attention to the boundaries between truth and fiction, sometimes transgressing them, at other times redefining them. Parra (1889-1936) published Diario de una senorita que se fastidia (part of Ifigenia) in serial form in the Caracas magazine La lectura semanal in 1922. The following year she moved to Paris, where she published Ifigenia in book form in 1924. The critical reaction varied, but in general the novel was vehemently attacked for its negative portrayal of Venezuelan society and, more important, for the Voltairian influence many feared it would have on young ladies. In response, Parra argued that the book was not revolutionary propaganda but "la exposici6n de un caso tipico de nuestra enfermedad contemporanea, la del bovarismo hispanoamericano" [the exposition of a typical case of our contemporary disease, that of Spanish American bovarism].‘ Parra's allusion to Flaubert's Emma Bovary is interesting not solely for its invitation to examine Maria Eugenia alongside her nineteenth-century predecessor but also for what it tells us about reading the "female plot" in Parra's novel.2 Born in Paris, Parra moved at the age of three to Venezuela, where her family were members of the landed gentry. Educated in Spain and France, she spent much of her adult life writing, lecturing, and traveling in Spanish America and Europe until her death from tuberculosis at forty-seven. Parra's work, and Ifigenia in particular, has helped shape a female Spanish American literary tradition conscious of the subversiveness of writing itself. Sonia Mattalia calls attention to Parra's denunciation of "the myopia of her critics who confused reality with fiction."3 Indeed, the issue of reading the boundaries between fiction and reality, or "literature" and "real life," is at the core of Parra's novel. I argue that Ifigenia represents Parra's endeavor to "write beyond the ending," or what Rachel Blau DuPlessis defines as the "attempt by women writers to call narrative forms into question . . . to scrutinize the ideological character of the romance plot (and related conventions in narrative), and to change fiction so that it makes alternative statements about gender and its institutions" (x).4 Parra does this through pastiche and parody of literary conventions, subversive rhetorical strategies adopted by her protagonist, and emphasis on the significance of reading and the female reader. In Subject to Change Nancy K. Miller describes some of the problems that women's writing has faced: The attack on female plots and plausibilities assumes that women writers cannot or will not obey the rules of fiction. It also assumes that the truth devolving from verisimilitude is male. For sensibility, sensitivity, "extravagance"-so many code words for feminine in our culture that the attack is in fact tautological-are taken to be not merely inferior modalities of production but deviations from some obvious truth. The blind spot here is both political (or philosophical) and literary. . . . It does not see that the maxims that pass for the truth of human experience and the encoding of that experience, in literature, are organizations, when they are not fantasies, of the dominant culture. To read women's literature is to see and hear repeatedly a chafing against the "unsatisfactory reality" contained in the maxim. (44; emphasis added) Ifigenia has often faced this kind of criticism.5 Mattalia notes that the novel has been faulted for "a certain structural feebleness" (35), and Elsa Krieger Gambarini shows that "the most significant aspect of the criticism of Teresa de la Parra is how it unconsciously problematizes the feminine" (177). But those who have disparaged Ifigenia for its "immorality" or its lack of "verisimilitude," as well as those who have lamented Parra's somewhat ambiguous feminist stance, have perhaps missed the point.6 "The plots of women's literature," Miller contends, "are not about ‘life’ and solutions in any therapeutic sense, nor should they be. They are about the plots of literature itself, about the constraints the maxim places on rendering a female life in fiction" (43). One might argue that Parra's novel should be read not as an exemplar of "‘life’ and solutions" for Latin American women but as a discourse on "the plots of literature itself," as a text interested in scrutinizing literary scripts as much as social ones. While we can certainly read Ifigenia as a critique of Venezuelan society, we should also look carefully at the extent to which it represents "a chafing against the ‘unsatisfactory reality’ contained in the maxim," an attack on the "encoding . . . in literature" of women's experience. Parra's allusions to Flaubert's heroine underscore this possibility. An analysis of the topos of reading and of the female reader in Ifigenia brings to light Parra's concern with the "constraints" placed not just on real women but on those intent on "rendering a female life in fiction." Such an analysis also draws attention to certain narrative complexities in the text that have yet to be studied in depth. "READING WOMAN READING" Historically, women have been perceived as superficial readers; frequently, these perceptions have been linked to religion.7 The idea that women were "bad" readers helped drive nineteenth-century fears of the effects of novel reading (in fact, most reading of a nonreligious nature) on young ladies. Picking up on these debates, Parra's novel underscores social prejudices about women as readers and the anticipated influence of books on their morality. As Susan Noakes reminds us, the reading "topos constitutes a compelling reminder that reading itself is a sign rather than an objective, valuefree, ahistorical activity" (352). Parra's text highlights the role of reading in the ideology dictating the behavior of young Venezuelan ladies and the deep-rooted fears linking their reading to moral corruption. The novel can be contextualized in a female tradition of discourse on reading. A century before Parra, in Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen articulated "what is now often considered one of the strongest defenses of the novel in a novel":8 I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding-joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronised by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?9 The intrusion of Austen's narrator parallels the blurring of narrative levels and the way this passage defines the "dangers" that beset heroines in discursive cultural scripts. We might point to such literary foremothers in Spanish letters as well. Susan Kirkpatrick's examination of the woman reader and the nineteenth-century Spanish novelist Rosalia de Castro offers another useful model for approaching Parra's narrative.‘1 Given the assumed relation between "the printed word and feminine behaviour" and its dependence on the question of "fantasy, of woman's desire," Kirkpatrick argues that Castro was able to "sidestep the question of morality," focusing instead on "the connected issues of fiction, female fantasy, and women's oppression" (74, 76). Through satire and irony Castro attacked "the dominant forms of literature in her society, exposing the manipulation of desire that buttressed structures of economic exploitation and political domination" (79). Her novels "can be read as attempts not only to represent but also to critique the structures that determine feminine identity in modern Western culture" (76). Similarly, Parra's text parses the literary scripts available for women in the Western literary tradition and challenges the consequences of the "morality" argument about the female reader. Her choice of the novel as the literary form in which to explore these themes is not surprising, given the tradition to which she, like Austen and Castro, belongs. Carla L. Peterson points out that "the debate over book reading and, most particularly, novel reading in the nineteenth century took place in large part within the novel itself. Indeed, intertextuality pervades the nineteenth-century novel just as it had the great novels of earlier centuries, Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, Wilhelm Meister, for example."" Like Castro, Parra emphasizes the performative aspects of literary and social scripts for women. Like Austen, she is concerned with what makes a literary heroine a heroine. Parra's text engages these issues in a specifically American context-Venezuela-during a period of rapid political and economic change in the first decades of the twentieth century. Maria Eugenia Alonso has often been interpreted as a superficial (i.e., female) reader; indeed, bad reading is sometimes thought to be the cause of her "fall" and tragic fate. Again, this view places Ifigenia in dialogue with Flaubert's novel. But if Maria Eugenia recalls "the most famous nineteenth-century example of a woman brought low by reading superficially" (Noakes, 351), she is quite different from Emma Bovary. While Maria Eugenia's readings may at times confuse her, they are anything but superficial. Edna Aizenberg notes that "precisely, literature becomes the instrument that the young Venezuelan uses to explore her self in relation to her circumstances and to find a significant role in society."12 Even in her most "frivolous" moments Maria Eugenia reveals a profound understanding of her position as a female reader-of both literary and social scripts. The literary scripts represented throughout the novel accentuate the gap between most women's real experience and the world of fantasy and (repressed) desire. In playing out or deferring women's desire ("the manipulation of desire that buttressed structures of economic exploitation and political domination," as Kirkpatrick puts it), they also offer an escape from the often confining social structures of female readers’ lives. Yet many believed in the nineteenth century that young ladies should be dissuaded from reading or learning of nearly any kind for fear that anything but an "ornamental education" would "ruin" them (Peterson, 18). Instead, they should prepare for a domestic life, avoiding novels that would give them "romantic illusions that [made] them discontented with their lot" (19)." This attitude pervades the society portrayed in Parra's novel. Maria Eugenia savors reading in part because of "el doble encanto de lo delicioso y lo prohibido" [the double delight of the delicious and the prohibited] (205; 88). She is frequently accused of being egocentric, immodest, unladylike, and disrespectful, often by her grandmother, who represents the synthesis of the social behaviors expected of her. Maria Eugenia's faults, according to her grandmother, stem from her book reading and her friendship with the bohemian Mercedes: "iNo eres la misma, no, no eres la misma; los libros y las malas compafiias estan acabando contigo, y con todas tus cualidades!" [You're not the same, no, you're not the same, books and bad company are ruining you, and with all your good qualities!] (242; 115-16). The voices of tradition in the narrative clearly link Maria Eugenia's reading with impropriety, corruption, and feminine unseemliness. During this lengthy argument with her grandmother and her aunt Clara, Maria Eugenia makes a strong case for reading: "No se cultiva la ociosidad leyendo. La lectura es instructiva, ensefia, y la considero mas provechosa, y muchisimo mas divertida que estas costuras y estos calados" [Reading isn't being idle. Reading is instructive, it teaches, and I consider it more profitable, and much more fun, than this sewing and this cutwork] (241; 115). Moreover, she connects the prejudice against reading with the oppression of young women: La inocencia de las sefioritas casaderas, o sea el afin desp6tico de hacernos ignorar en teoria todo aquello que las otras personas conocen o han conocido en la practica, me parece uno de los mayores abusos que han cometido jamas los fuertes contra los d6biles. . . . La inocencia es una ciega, sorda y paralitica, a qui6n la imbecilidad humana ha coronado de rosas. (249-50) [The innocence of marriageable young ladies, or rather the despotic desire to keep us ignorant in theory of all that other people know or have known in practice, seems to me one of the greatest abuses ever committed by the strong against the weak. . . . Innocence is a blind, deaf, and paralyzed creature, whom human stupidity has crowned with roses.] (120) Recognizing the effects of prohibiting knowledge, Maria Eugenia continues her "thesis," as she calls it, maintaining that novels are no worse than the hypocrites who criticize them. Her aunt reacts with horror: "iPero que sarta de disparates, Maria Eugenia . . . ! esas atrocidades las has leido td iltimamente en alguna novela!" [What a string of nonsense, Maria Eugenia! . . . Those atrocities are something you've read lately in some novel!] (252; 121). Rejecting Clara's insinuations, Maria Eugenia responds: jLas novelas! ;Si!, idale con "las novelas" . . .! Ahi tienes otra incongruencia y otra injusticia! Las novelas, tia Clara, estan llenas de discreci6n; la mis inmoral, ioyes? la inmoral, la peor de cuantas he leido, al llegar a ciertos momentos cierra el capitulo o pone puntos suspensivos, mientras que personas muy severas y muy respetables, los han llevado a la practica, esos puntos suspensivos, los han ilustrado como quien dice y eso, eso es lo que yo encuentro injusto para con las novelas y muy, muy contradictorio en general. (252-53) [Novels! Yes! Carry on about novels! . . . That is another incongruity and another injustice! Novels, Aunt Clara, are full of discretion. The most immoral, do you hear, the most immoral, the worst of all I've ever read, as it came to certain moments, generally ended the chapter or omitted that scene. Yet very severe and very respectable people have put into practice the things never mentioned in words, and I find that unjust toward novels and very, very contradictory in general.] (121) Maria Eugenia recognizes the relationship between the novel as a literary form and the imagination. The ellipsis or "omitted" scene certainly opens the reader's imagination, but this is not necessarily a bad thingmost readers know the difference between fiction and reality. At the same time, Maria Eugenia condemns the hypocrisy of so-called respectable people whose reallife behavior is much worse than anything described in a novel. Those who blame novels as the cause of misconduct are mistaken; novels are only pale reflections of reality.14 (NOVEL) CHARACTERS AND THE FEMALE ROMANCE PLOT The topos of reading in Ifigenia is further problematized by the novel's layers of metanarrative, hinted at subtly in Maria Eugenia's "texts" and more distinctly in the "extrafictional" texts that frame hers (the epigraphs and section headings, in particular). Like Northanger Abbey, Parra's narrative opens with a statement of its own constructedness and its status as a novel. Austen's text "proclaims a literary philosophy by enacting it" (Lanser, 69).‘1 Similarly, the first part of Parra's novel is announced as "una carta muy larga donde las cosas se cuentan como en las novelas" [a very long letter wherein things are told as they are in novels] (73; 5). This unidentified extradiegetic voice inserts the text into the tradition of the epistolary novel while implying the text's verisimilitude and mimetic function (i.e., this is a "real" letter from Maria Eugenia to her friend Cristina de Iturbe). Though the extrafictional voice seems distinct from the first-person narrative voice in the letter, Maria Eugenia herself draws attention in the first pages of the letter to the "novelesque" aspects of her writing, as well as of her "real life." What is more, she uses the conventions of didactic literature: Tu, yo, todos los que andando por el mundo tenemos algunas tristezas, somos heroes y heroinas en la propia novela de nuestra vida, que es mis bonita y mil veces mejor que las novelas escritas. Es esta tesis la que voy a desarrollar ante tus ojos, relatandote minuciosamente y como en las autenticas novelas todo cuanto me ha ocurrido. (77) [You and I-all of us who, moving through the world, have some talents and some sorrows-are heroes and heroines in the novels of our own lives, which is nicer and a thousand times better than written novels. It is this thesis that I am going to develop before your eyes, relating to you in minute detail and as they do in authentic novels, everything that has happened to me.] (10) This "thesis" both suggests that lived experience is superior to that described in (written) words and recognizes the affinities between a lived life and a written one ("the novels of our own lives"). Yet, ironically, Maria Eugenia compares herself to the heroines in novels, stressing her status as protagonist: Ya no me considero en absoluto personaje secundario, estoy bastante satisfecha de mf misma, me he declarado en huelga contra la timidez y la humildad, y tengo ademas la pretensi6n de creer que valgo un mill6n de veces mis que todas las heroinas de las novelas que lefamos en verano t( y yo, las cuales, dicho sea entre parentesis, me parece ahora que debian estar muy mal escritas. (77) [I no longer consider myself a secondary character at all. I am quite satisfied with myself, and I have declared myself on strike against shyness and humility; I have, moreover, the presumption to believe that I am worth a million times more than all the heroines in the novels we used to read in the summer-novels which, by the way, must have been very poorly written.] (10) In short, she seems to recognize her status as a character in a novel. Though one might imagine the dismay of Austen's narrator at Maria Eugenia's dismissal of "all the heroines in the novels" she has read-for "the heroine of one novel" should be "patronised by the heroine of another"-we should keep in mind that the majority of the heroines mentioned or alluded to in Parra's novel are from male-authored works. Yet we still might ask the same question that Austen's narrator does: "From whom can she expect protection and regard?" Herein lies one implication of Parra's text: the inadequacy of literary scripts available for women in the predominantly male attempts to "encode" female experience in Western literature. Confined by financial circumstances and social and familial obligations, Maria Eugenia narrates how, trying to rid herself of the monster of boredom, she has taken to reading and writing, locked up in a room of her own, so to speak.16 At this point she begins to experiment with feminine roles she has encountered in her reading. Denied the freedom to define her own identity, she attempts to construct a self in her writing by enacting and performing these roles. Many of them are scripted. Initially, reading is a potentially liberating force for her. Unfortunately, she discovers that literary roles are no more promising than the social ones available to her in real life. These roles, even those based on actual women-such as the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the dancer Isadora Duncan, and the pianist Teresa Carrefio-stress the performative." Some of the roles are theatrical themselves, like those of Juliet and Iphigenia. Indeed, the theater serves an important function in Ifigenia." Maria Eugenia often mentions the theater (e.g., 387) and describes events as if they were scenes from a play (e.g., she writes, "Le conteste [a Cesar Leal] digna y teatralmente" [I answered [Cesar Leal] with theatrical dignity] [463; 249]).19 The text's numerous allusions to fairy tales, Romantic and modernist poetry, and gothic and romance narratives are particularly interesting both because they illustrate the ideology of reading at work and because they correlate to the development of the female plot in the novel. The topos of reading in Ifigenia manifests itself in the novel's plot and narrative conventions. Like many nineteenth-century novels, Ifigenia presents a typical romance plot that leaves a female protagonist two options: either marriage or death. "As a gendered subject in the nineteenth century," DuPlessis argues, the female protagonist "has barely any realistic options in work or vocation, so her heroism lies in self-mastery, defining herself as a free agent, freely choosing the romance that nonetheless, in one form or another, is her fate. The female hero turns herself into a heroine; this is her last act as an individual agent" (14). Parra's text is a twentieth-century novel that takes the issue of female agency to a new level. Maria Eugenia shows early on her awareness that her destiny as a woman is tied up in her marriageability and negation of self. Having experienced the freedom available to (wealthy) young women in Paris, Maria Eugenia suddenly finds herself without an inheritance, an unmarried orphan forced to listen to traditional social cues. "Tratar de ser lo mas intachable posible" [Be irreproachable], her grandmother tells her. She understands this to mean: Tratar de ser lo mis cero del mundo, a fin de que un hombre, seducido por mi nulidad, viniera a hacerme el inmenso beneficio de colocarse a mi lado en calidad de guarismo, elevandose por obra y gracia de su presciencia en suma redonda y respetable que adquirirfa asi cierto valor real ante la sociedad y el mundo. (162) [Try to be the biggest zero in the world, to the end that some man, seduced by my nullity, might do me the immense favor of placing himself beside me as a whole number, elevating me by act and benefaction of his prescience to a round and respectable sum that would thus acquire a certain real value before society and the world.] (62) Maria Eugenia's frank analysis of her situation is a scathing critique of women's legal nonexistence outside marriage. Her use of cero and nulidad stress that a woman's achievement is measured solely in terms of the value placed on her by patriarchal social norms. The fourth part of the novel, also titled "Ifigenia," might be read as a record of Maria Eugenia's decision to accept her fate. Ultimately, she defines herself, "turns herself into a heroine," by deciding to marry Cesar Leal, but she also turns herself into a figure of Greek tragedy. Her choice, Iphigenia, further intertwines the romance plot's usual outcomes, marriage or death: in Euripides’ play Iphigenia has been lured to Aulis to be sacrificed under the false premise that she is to be married to Achilles. Parra moves beyond those traditional outcomes of the female plot (marriage or death) by metaphorically combining them: marriage as death." By reading and enacting the scripts of literature, Maria Eugenia learns how to become a "heroine in the novel of [her own] life," proving the thesis she has announced at the beginning of her letter to Cristina. In this regard she resembles Catherine Morland, who "was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives" (Austen, 4). The long list of literary allusions, quotations, and references in Maria Eugenia's narrative originate from her avid reading of "such works as heroines must read." Her texts (letter and diary) and the novel itself (including its extrafictional elements) read as a pastiche of literary movements, genres, plots, and characters. Undoubtedly, the text's generic hybridity bespeaks Parra's vast array of sources.2 Nonetheless, it implies her keen interest in what that "prestigious, enlightened" tradition reveals about the literary heroine. The novel imitates (and sometimes parodies) many literary conventions and displays characteristics from a variety of genres, including the gothic romance, the fairy tale, Golden Age and Elizabethan theater, Greek tragedy, the bildungsroman, and the comedy of manners. It employs allegorical, rhetorical, epistolary, didactic, and other literary modes. Furthermore, Parra imitates (and sometimes parodies) certain literary movements, such as Romanticism, realism, and Spanish American modernism, as well as specific writers-Cervantes, Shakespeare, P6rez Gald6s, Becquer, Musset, Perrault, Calleja, Schopenhauer, Silva, and Poe, to name a few." In the framework of this essential literariness, Parra's narrative brings the female plot to the fore. All of the textual features converge in the novel's focus on and concern with the female plot and the heroine's sexual fate. The idea of the love story dominates Maria Eugenia's letter and diary. In part 3, for example, she writes of her early courtship by Leal, who at one point sends her an enormous bouquet of white roses and orchids: Pero ocurri6 . . . en la tarde, cuando me hallaba en mi cuarto profundamente engolfada en una novela inglesa de esas que pasan en el gran mundo elegante, de pronto, tal y como si fuera cosa de magia, apareci6 en el umbral de mi entornada puerta Maria del Carmen, la sirvienta, cargada con un inmenso bouquet . . . cerre las puertas de mi cuarto, y reuniendo todos los envases y floreros que pude encontrar los llene de agua y me puse arreglar las flores en languidas y ensofadoras actitudes. . . . Ah!, mi cuarto ya no era mi cuarto, sino una estancia novelesca y encantadora en donde flotaba el mas sutil y delicioso perfume. (428-29) [But it happened . . . during the afternoon, when I was in my room deeply engrossed in one of those English novels that are set in high society, suddenly, just as if it were an act of magic, Maria del Carmen, the maid, appeared at my half-opened door carrying an enormous bouquet. . . .I closed my bedroom doors and, gathering all the containers and vases I could find, I filled them with water and began to arrange the flowers in languid and dreamy attitudes. ... .Oh! My room wasn't my room, but rather an enchanted dwelling from a novel where the most subtle and delicious perfume floated.] (228) Enraptured by the flowers, Maria Eugenia dresses in her cream lace deshabilld, fixes her hair, perfumes her neck and arms with "Nirvana by Bichara," polishes her nails, and turns back to her English novel, stretched out "en [su] cama a fin de continuar alli la interesante lectura" [on [her] bed to continue the interesting reading] (429; 229). However, she finds herself distracted and, intoxicated by the scent of the flowers, loses herself "por los deliciosos meandros y vericuetos de mil delicadisimos ensuefios" [down the delicious meanderings and pathless ways of a thousand delicate fantasies], which she admits were influenced by "todos aquellos lords y ladies, parques y lagos, castillos, bailes y cacernas descritos en la novela inglesa" [the lords and ladies, parks and lakes, castles, dances, and hunts described in the English novel] (430; 228-29).2 Maria Eugenia's seemingly frivolous hyperromanticization of this scene actually underscores her sense of how unromantic, how far from love, her relationship with Leal is. This part of the novel is aptly titled "Hacia el puerto de Aulide" [Toward the Port of Aulis], and Maria Eugenia reveals her sense of foreboding, commenting that as Leal's visits become more frequent, "lo que sobre todo me encantaba era el pensar que mis vestidos, mi cabello, mis ojos y mi busto griego tenian por fin una raz6n de ser, puesto que habia alguien que los veia y los admiraba como es debido y como ellos se merecen" [what I enjoyed most of all was to think that my dresses, my hair, my eyes, and my Greek bust at last had a reason for being, since there was someone who could see them and admire them as is their just due] (445-46; 238). This statement becomes bitterly ironic if read alongside her earlier observation that a woman is a "zero" until a prospective husband elevates her "to a round and respectable sum." Maria Eugenia confesses that her upcoming marriage to the ironically named Cesar Leal [lit. Caesar Loyal] causes her to suffer "ansiedad inmensa" [immense anxiety]; she hears "los pasos de la muerte" [the footsteps of death] coming closer (513; 284). She suffers no illusions that marriage will bring her happiness. Instead, she gradually unites the romance plot ending in marriage with the tragic plot of Greek antiquity. Even Gabriel eventually drives her closer to tragedy. In the fourth chapter of part 4, she notes that his eyes follow her "con la obsesi6n vertiginosa y negra con que revuelan los murcielagos, y con que revuela el crimen en el argumento de las tragedias clasicas" [with the dizzying, black obsession with which bats flutter, and with which crime hovers over the plot of classical tragedies] (514; 285). In the first two parts of the novel (which we might conceive of as acts), Maria Eugenia draws primarily on the female romance plot (and sometimes on romantic tragedy, as in the case of Romeo and Juliet); in the second two, she turns to Greek epic tragedy and transforms herself into its heroine. METANARRATIVE, IRONY, AND FEMINIST CRITIQUE One of the most important structural features of Ifigenia, and one crucially linked to the protofeminist discourse embedded in Maria Eugenia's narrative, is the novel's metafictional character-its self-consciousness as (literary) text. Most often, the text draws attention to this quality with irony. As Ileana Rodriguez notes, "Within herself [Maria Eugenia], there is a variety of voices that run from simple ridicule to the most mediated parody, to irony and sarcasm" (86). As we have noted, there is an extrafictional voice at work in the novel, outside Maria Eugenia's letter and diary. This voice most openly reveals itself in the epigraphs before each chapter, which Mattalia reminds us resemble those from chronicles and courtly and picaresque novels (39). Often there is a slippage between the epigraph's extratextual voice and Maria Eugenia's voice. In the first chapter of part 2, "El balc6n de Julieta" [Juliet's balcony], the epigraph directly addresses an implied reader: "Remitida ya la interminable carta a su amiga Cristina, Maria Eugenia Alonso resuelve escribir su diario. Como se verA, en este primer capitulo, aparece por fin la gentil persona de Mercedes Galindo" [Having now sent the interminable letter to her friend Cristina, Maria Eugenia Alonso resolves to write her diary. As will be seen, in this first chapter, the genteel Mercedes Galindo appears at last] (206; 93). In addition to announcing the major events of the chapter, after the fashion of the narrative subtitles of eighteenth-century novels, this passage functions, through its wry descriptions ("interminable," "genteel"), as a tongue-in-cheek metacommentary on the novel itself. Maria Eugenia's tone in the diary itself both contrasts with and resembles that of this epigraph. She opens this section by pronouncing the writing of one's diary "una tonteria" [awfully foolish], "un romanticismo cursi, anticuado y pasadisimo de moda" [a cheap romanticism, old-fashioned and totally out of style] (206; 93). Yet she is going to do it anyway. This self-conscious, ironic stance hardens, for she declares: "Si; yo, Maria Eugenia Alonso, voy a escribir mi diario, mi semanario, mi peri6dico, no se c6mo decir, pero en fin, es algo que al tratar sobre mi propia vida, equivaldrd a eso que en las novelas llaman ‘diario’" [Yes, I, Maria Eugenia Alonso, am going to write my diary, or my weekly, my newspaper. I don't know what to call it, but anyway, it will deal with my own life, and will be like what they call a "diary" in novels] (206; 93; emphasis added). It is almost as if the two voices (epigrapher's and narrator's) were the same, in spite of Maria Eugenia's numerous assertions that she writes her diary for no one's eyes but her own. "As Bakhtin suggests, epigraphy works dialogically: it constructs an abstract discourse in tension with the chapter's dramatized events; it creates a dialogue between two voices-epigrapher's and narrator's-presumably of different agency" (Lanser, 99-100). This dialogical tension can be detected in the chapters containing Maria Eugenia's diary. In part 3 Maria Eugenia's voice grows even more ironic, sounding more in tone like the extratextual voice. As she rereads her diary entries of two years earlier, she undertakes a lengthy analysis of their literary form and "psychological interest" (401-2; 212). The epigraph of this chapter announces: "Capitulo Uno: Despues de dormir profundamente durante largos meses, una mafiana, del fondo de un armario, entre lazos, encajes y telas viejas, se ha despertado de golpe la verbosidad literaria de Maria Eugenia Alonso. Hela aqui restregandose los ojos todavia" [Chapter One: After long months of deep sleep, one morning, from the depths of a wardrobe, lying among ribbons, lace, and old fabric, Maria Eugenia Alonso's literary verbosity has suddenly awakened. Here it is still rubbing its eyes] (400; 211). The epigrapher's comic observation about Maria Eugenia's "literary verbosity" comes into play in the chapter itself. At one point our heroine notes, "Acabo de ver que estoy filosofando, y como no quiero malgastar mi inteligencia en decir cosas profundas que nadie ha de leer nunca, aqui me detengo en cuanto a filosofias, y paso a relatar" [I have just realized that I am philosophizing, and since I don't want to waste my intelligence saying profound things that no one will ever read, here I halt as far as philosophy goes and I move ahead] (405; 214; emphasis added). Again, she reaffirms that she is "a la vez autor y unico pdblico" [at one and the same time the author and the only reader] of her works (401; 212). Throughout part 3, however, she playfully shows an awareness of an implied reader: Preguntaria ahora un curioso lector (en la hip6tesis absurda de que mis escritos pudieran tener lectores). Si tal era, ia que venia semejante contradicci6n y por que protestaba entonces el cerebro, contra las acertadas suposiciones de la tfa Clara? Ante una pregunta tan l6gica creo que yo me sentirfa un poco confundida, pero estoy cierta de que al fin acabaria por valerme del ap6strofe, y como un habil ergotista saldria muy airosamente de tal atolladero exclamando por ejemplo: ";Oh!, sombrios y deliciosos boscajes del amor, por entre cuyas ramas, el infantil Cupido." (440) [A curious reader would now ask (given the absurd hypothesis that my writings might have readers)-if that were so, why such a contradiction and why then did the brain protest against Aunt Clara's wise suppositions? Faced with such a logical question, I think I would feel a little confused at first, but I am certain that in the end I would recur to the apostrophe, and like a skillful syllogist I would very gracefully escape the quicksand by exclaiming, for example: "Oh! shady, delightful groves of love, among whose branches, the infant Cupid."] (235) A lengthy and witty apostrophe follows. In this passage the narrative voice resembles that of the epigraphs in tone and in the description of what will (or, in this case, would) happen.24 Maria Eugenia's choice of the word ergotista highlights the ironic contrast between the syllogism and the romance and thus the tension between "logic" and "emotion" in her writing. Maria Eugenia continually insists that she is writing a private diary, but she (and Parra) also winks at us as readers. These repeated references to the presence or absence of the reader become especially important in parts 3 and 4, where Maria Eugenia takes control of the narrative structure at the very moment that she loses control of her future. After reflecting on her earlier diary entries, she alleges that she is a changed woman and details the "progress" she has made. She is now a loyal granddaughter, betrothed to a man approved of by her family (with the exception of Tio Pancho), and she behaves as a young lady should. Her endless list of instances of her good behavior aptly includes the fact that she no longer reads "novelas cuyas heroinas tengan amantes" [novels whose heroines have lovers] (403; 213). One cannot help but think of Emma Bovary. Maria Eugenia's discourse often reveals her consciousness of the problems these restrictions and rules place on her, and she frequently employs irony in these later entries. The changes in Maria Eugenia's character are not as deep, however, as she would have us believe. Rather, they shrewdly indicate that she has gained valuable experience in playing the roles assigned to her. Thus we should pay close attention to what she leaves unsaid or merely alludes to. For instance, in spite of all her "progress," she tells us that her grandmother has noted that she looks pale, has circles under her eyes, and has lost a lot of weight (406; 215). Maria Eugenia clearly sees her own sitting in the window as a form of objectification or commodification (408-12; 215-17), and she misses being alone with her books (408; 218). After Leal begins to court her, Maria Eugenia feels her independence slipping away. The literary scripts no longer have the positive force they once did for her. Yet she cleverly hints at her attempts to maintain her identity. When listing the constructive changes she has made in her life, she notes: "Ya no me pinto la boca con Rouge eclatant de Guerlain, sino que me la pinto con Rouge vif de Saint-Ange; cuyo tono es muchisimo mis suave que el de Rouge eclatant de Guerlain" [I no longer paint my lips with Rouge eclatant de Guerlain. Instead I paint them with Rouge vif de Saint-Ange, whose tone is much softer than that of Rouge eclatant de Guerlain] (403; 213). She may have changed her tone, but she still struggles to preserve her individuality. The lipstick motif returns later in her account of Leal's angry demand that she not wear any makeup. (Reaffirming her adeptness at performing, she convinces him that her painted lip color is actually natural.) Moreover, she notes that he does not like her to wear her favorite pink charmeuse dress because he says it makes her look too "teatral" [theatrical]. Maria Eugenia's descriptions of her developing relationship with Leal lay bare her self-conscious attitude toward herself and her situation. She still often relies on literary scripts as a means of approaching selfunderstanding, but she uses them in an ironic fashion in the second half of the novel. For instance, she begins the second chapter of part 3 as she has many other chapters, by announcing her didactic intention to prove a "thesis," an "aphorism," or some premise. In this chapter she claims that she no longer believes in the existence of love, which we might suspect is the result of her heartbreak over Gabriel's marrying another woman. Yet she offers as proof not the loss of Gabriel but the "affections" of Leal: "Si poseo esta verdad y si profeso este axioma de que el amor no existe, es porque mi novio me ha besado a mi" [If I hold this knowledge and if I profess this axiom that love does not exist, it's because my sweetheart has kissed me] (461; 247). The paradigm of the romance plot is subverted as Maria Eugenia recounts her first kiss from Leal, which reminds her of "aquella conmovedora escena del balc6n ocurrida entre Roxana, CristiAn, y el pobre Cyrano, quien en mi opini6n, fue el mas afortunado de los tres, puesto que no habiendo subido a recibir el beso de Roxana, conserv6 hasta el fin sus ilusiones y no tuvo ocasi6n de experimentar esta horrible decepci6n que experimento yo hoy" [that moving balcony scene between Roxanne, Christian, and poor Cyrano, who in my opinion was the luckiest of the three, since not having climbed up to receive Roxanne's kiss, he kept his illusions till the end and had no chance to experience this horrible disillusionment that I am experiencing today] (461; 248).25 She then undertakes an explanation of her "antikissing" discourse: apart from Leal's cigarette breath, his prickly horse-brush mustache, and her fear that her lipstick will be discovered, she declares that kissing "como entretenimiento es muy mon6tono, y como costumbre puede llegar a ser antihigienica" [as an entertainment . . . is very monotonous, and as a habit it can be unhygienic] (462; 248). Thus she subtly deflates a symbol of romantic love. Parra's heroine draws on the connections between romantic and mystical love only to dismantle them. She builds up one script, "convincing" us of her love, her loyalty, and Leal's goodness, only to overwrite it with another "text" or script. Just after comparing her newfound "love" for Leal to the Virgin awaiting the Annunciation, she confesses that "sus fulgores han cegado mis pupilas y las majestad de su grandeza me abruma" [its brilliancy has blinded [her] pupils and the majesty of its grandeur crushes her] (459; 247). Using the language of religious experience, she reveals her knowledge that her engagement spells doom for her independence.‘2 A "mysterious," prayerlike voice whispers: Este enorme disparate sin pies ni cabeza: "iAh, felices las desgraciadas que no tienen la gran suerte de poseer el tesoro completo del amor, y que siendo bonitas, en medio de su infortunio podran siempre, siempre, bailar en los bailes y escotarse en el teatro!" (459) [This absurdity which makes no sense: "Oh, happy are the unlucky girls who do not have the great good fortune of possessing the perfect treasure of love, and who being pretty, still in their misfortune, can always, always dance at dances and wear low-cut dresses at the theater!"] (247) Though Maria Eugenia claims that this voice speaks absurdities, the details it mentions (dances, clothing) and its rhetorical structure suggest that she knows otherwise. The juxtapositions of happy and unlucky, pretty and misfortune, reveal the irony of this warning (246). The final chapters of Ifigenia might be said to be completely prescripted and prescriptive. Apart from the Greek tragic scene in which Iphigenia chooses to "accept" her fate, the closing chapters contain gothic elements that heighten a sense of inevitability. For example, Maria Eugenia's decision to elope with Gabriel is frustrated by her fear, which manifests itself in a black cat that crosses her path as she retrieves a suitcase in which to pack her clothing: "iAh!, ilos gatos negros de ojos fosforescentes, que brillan en la noche como los fuegos fatuos . .. ! Siempre habia oido decir que tenian pacto con el diablo, y con los brujos, y con los espiritus, y con todos, todos, los invisibles poderes ocultos" [Black cats with phosphorescent eyes that shine in the night like will-o’-the-wisps! I had always heard they were in league with the devil, and with witches, and with ghosts, and with all invisible and occult powers!] (597; 338). Her sense of foreboding increases, causing her to believe that a ghost is responsible for the nervous attack that prevents her from fleeing the imprisoning walls of the hacienda. Whereas in lateeighteenthand early-nineteenth-century gothic romances the sinister mysteries are resolved and the heroine overcomes the obstacles in her path, Parra's character feels only further terror. This gothic effect becomes intense in the last chapter of Ifigenia. Having written about the events leading up to the present moment, Maria Eugenia looks up from her desk at her wedding dress, draped across a chair: Si . . . A esta hora augusta de la media noche: ic6mo habla en silencio la negrura del sill6n, y c6mo calla a gritos la blancura desmayada entre los brazos negros! El sill6n parece un amante sadico que abrazara a una muerta. El vestido desgonzado con sus dos mangas vacias que se abren en cruz y se descuelgan casi hasta llegar al suelo, es un cadaver . . . parece el cadaver violado de una doncella que no tuviese cuerpo. (622-23) [At this pious and reverent hour, how the black chair silently speaks, and how the limp whiteness screams in its black arms! The chair seems like a sadistic lover embracing a dead woman. The disjointed dress is a corpse, with its two empty sleeves open to form a cross and drooping almost to the floor. It looks like the ravished, incorporeal body of a young girl.] (352-53) The violent symbolism of the white corpselike dress draped over a black chair suggests a vampirish reference to images such as Heinrich Fuseli's "Nightmare" or Mary Shelley's depiction of Frankenstein's wedding night. Maria Eugenia asks herself if the dress represents her soul without a body in Gabriel's arms, or her body without a soul in Leal's. She will become Iphigenia, but, unlike her Greek precursor, she will not literally die. She will become "undead," like a vampire's victim. The gothic flourishes of this final scene emphasize the severing of her body from her soul, echoing her earlier recognition of a psychological split in herself: "iAquella dualidad, . . . aquel absurdo desacuerdo entre mis convicciones y mi conducta . . . !" [The duplicity, ... the absurd discord between my convictions and my behavior!] (614; 347-48). Maria Eugenia realizes that she has become a tragic heroine and that, in spite of all her performative efforts, she cannot escape the literary script implied on the novel's title page. "Yes sin duda," she concedes, "por eso por que toda yo, de la cabeza a los pies me siento vivir ahora en el grupo amoroso" [No doubt that is why my whole being, from head to toe, feels a living part of this tableau of perverted love] (623; 353). CONCLUSION: "A LENGTHY LETTER IN WHICH THINGS ARE TOLD ABOUT NOVELS" Finally, I would like to consider the reading topos in Ifigenia as it was amplified in a letter Parra published in Elite in response to a negative review by Lisandro Alvarado." This letter purports to have been written by Maria Eugenia. As she does in the novel, Parra demonstrates in the letter her wit and shrewd sense of irony, using her fictional heroine to defend "the novel of her life," as Maria Eugenia herself would describe it. Parra frames the letter, written completely in character, with a domestic trope: Maria Eugenia recounts how she ran across Alvarado's article while unwrapping her china, "acufiado entre salseras y platos de postre" [wedged among saucers and dessert plates] (Obra escogida, 204). Having read the article several times, she conducts a lengthy analysis of his ideas. She first points out that Alvarado all but ignores Parra, the "pretendida autora de la novela Ifigenia" [the alleged author of the novel Ifigenia] (204), and instead focuses his attention"tanto su analisis como sus juicios y presagios" [your analysis as well as your judgments and portents] (204)-on Maria Eugenia's personal thoughts, especially those bearing on the discussion with Abuelita and Tia Clara in which she expresses her revolucionarias ideas. She explains that Alvarado's indignation over her ideas does not surprise her, because it comes from his "cultura griega y latina" [Greek and Latin culture] (205). Parra thus reiterates her interest in the Western literary tradition, especially as it concerns women readers and characters. Throughout the letter Maria Eugenia makes comments about the "readers" of her text (letter or diary), reinforcing the irony of her comments in the diary itself. Parra is made into an "editor," as the quotation makes clear, suggesting that the extratextual narrative voice is "Parra's." Maria Eugenia defends her "own" text against the criticism, as well as Parra. In this way Maria Eugenia reclaims the text again and shows her awareness of its literariness. Ironically, she places herself in both the fictional and nonfictional worlds, both separating herself from and tying herself to Parra. Of course, Parra herself as author ultimately manipulates the discourse. Not only did Parra "shrewdly constitut[e] her protagonist against the symbolic shadow of Greek drama" (Rodriguez, 59), but she constructed her within a narrative framework composed of multiple literary genres and conventions. As a result, Ifigenia exposes time and time again its own status as a text consciously constructed and positioned in the Western literary tradition. The dual structure of letter and diary, combined with extratextual elements such as epigraphs and chapter subtitles, creates a lens through which to examine the literary scripts available for women in that tradition. The internal commentary of Maria Eugenia's writing, especially through its use of irony and other rhetorical devices and its incorporation of the plots and characters of other literature (including the generic form of the novel itself), lays bare the inadequacy of those scripts. Doris Meyer postulates that Maria Eugenia "knows she is a victim of outside forces, but what causes her the greatest anguish is her own awareness of the contradiction between her words and her actions."" This statement rings even truer if we look at Parra's protagonist in her role as a female reader. Maria Eugenia, unlike Emma Bovary, is conscious of herself as a reader and actively engages this role. Noakes notes that "Flaubert's emphasis in describing the superficiality of Emma's style of reading is on its disconnectedness; her vision of what she reads is unstructured because structure is to be found only within, not at the surface, where female readers, according to tradition, remain" (351). In contrast, Parra emphasizes the complexity of reading (through her narrative form) as well as Maria Eugenia's awareness of herself as a reader. Maria Eugenia's identification with literary characters is a sign of a different level of awareness: she is conscious that they are fictional characters. Her apparent superficiality is merely a mask, or the product of the multiple masks that society offers the heroine of a novel. Unlike Emma, Maria Eugenia can make connections, identify the structures at play, both in literary plots and in social institutions. In spite of her "tragic end," Maria Eugenia retains her self-awareness and rebelliousness, even after her supposed transformation at the beginning of part 3. Furthermore, unlike Flaubert's novel, which uses extradiegetic narration, Parra's novel allows the heroine to speak for herself (with the exception, we assume, of the extratextual elements). This technique especially affects the function of irony in the text. Parra's implicit critique of the possibilities of the female plot echoes again in her responses to critics of her novel. As she points out in a letter to Eduardo Guzmin Esponda, "Como usted son ya muchos los lectores masculinos a quienes desagrada el final de Ifigenia" [Like you, there are many male readers who dislike the ending of Ifigenia] (Obra escogida, 216). With biting sarcasm, Parra suggests that Maria Eugenia would say that they were jealous of Cesar Leal since they could not be jealous of Gabriel Olmedo. Or, she conjectures, perhaps they fear that Maria Eugenia, "con su losa de silencio, ha de ser en adelante, el prototipo de la mujer feliz. . .. .,Sera que les roza en la conciencia, el temor o el remordimiento de ser un poco Leal?" [with her stonelike silence, she will be, from now on, the prototype of the happy woman. . . . Could it be that in their conscience grates the fear or the regret of being a bit like Leal?] (216). Parra draws a distinction between the typical male reader's reaction and the typical female reader's: "Por contraste las lectoras, que conocen la frecuencia de esas losas de silencio, y presienten la fatal abundancia de Leales, ante el drama, en lugar de desagradarse se conmueven" [Female readers, in contrast, who know the frequency of those stones of silence and intuitively know the ghastly abundance of Leals, are, when facing the drama, deeply moved instead of displeased by it] (216-17). Parra's comments suggest that she meant the ending of Ifigenia to trouble readers; the (ir)resolution of the story, in its disjunction from the preceding narrative, leaves the novel open to interpretation. For while it seems to fit neatly into the paradigm of the romance plot ending in the death or marriage of the heroine, it also interrogates this plot. Both the heroine and the author (or "editor") display deep selfconsciousness about subversive writing and subversive reading, both of social maxims and of intertexts. The final scene of the novel, sometimes considered to reproduce the limited possibilities for literary heroines, in fact calls attention to their constructedness and their inadequacy. Though it appears that Maria Eugenia will marry Leal-indeed, her later "letter" to Alvarado acknowledges that she does-the wedding happens outside the text. In novels, Alison Booth notes, the close of a story does not mean the close of the discourse: "How [a] novel ends often exposes the difference between the narrative ‘expression’ and its ‘content,‘ and either or both of these intertwined elements may serve to undermine social and literary convention. The woman's story and the design of the text itself may find ways to contradict the last words that ostensibly control the meaning of the ensuing silence."" In this sense Parra's text, both in its story and in its design, transcends Maria Eugenia's "tragic fate." She is a survivor; there is no grim suicide to close the novel. By scrutinizing the female romance plot itself, Parra challenges and transforms the tradition of the novel in Spanish America while building on a unique female literary history. Notes 1. Teresa de la Parra, Tres conferencias, in Obra (Narrativa-cuentos-cartas), ed. Velia Bosch (Caracas: Ayacucho, 1982), 473. 2. See Nancy K. Miller, Subject to Change: Reading Feminist Writing (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988); and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Writing beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985). Miller defines female plot as "quite simply that organization of narrative event which delimits a heroine's psychological, moral, and social development within a sexual fate. ... Female plot thus is both what the culture has always already inscribed for woman and its reinscription in the linear time of fiction. It is generally mapped by the heroine's engagement with the codes of the dominant ideology, her obligatory insertion within the institutions which in society and novels name her-marriage, for example." Though men as well as women produce novels with female plots, "female-authored literature generally questions the costs and overdetermination of this particular narrative economy with an insistence such that the fictions engendered provide an internal, dissenting commentary on the female plot itself." (208) Similarly, DuPlessis defines the "romance plot" as the traditional fate of female characters in novels: "Once upon a time, the end, the rightful end, of women in novels was social-successful courtship, marriage-or judgmental of her sexual and social failure-death. These are both resolutions of romance." (1) In this essay I use the terms female plot and romance plot synonymously. 3. Sonia Mattalia, introduction to Ifigenia, by Teresa de la Parra (Madrid: Anaya, 1992), 29. Translations from Ifigenia are taken from Iphigenia (The Diary of a Young Lady Who Wrote Because She Was Bored), trans. Bertie Acker (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993). Page numbers for Parra's text and Acker's translation follow quotations in parentheses. Other translations are my own unless otherwise noted. 4. DuPlessis focuses her analyses exclusively on English and American authors. 5. Even critical commentary meant to be favorable has characteristics of the kind outlined by Miller. For instance, Arturo Uslar Pietri described Parra herself as "a senorita: that monstrously delicate and complex being. That flower of the baroque" (quoted in Mattalia, 9). From the outset of her career Parra was accused of failing to show Caracas in a good light, and readers "tended to view Iphigenia as the direct, confessional outpourings of its author, unmediated by artistry or by critical, satirical awareness" (Naomi Lindstrom, introduction to Iphigenia, x). See Elsa Krieger Gambarini's excellent essay "The Male Critic and the Woman Writer: Reading Teresa de la Parra's Critics," in In the Feminine Mode: Essays on Hispanic Women Writers, ed. Noel Valis and Carol Maier (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1990), 177-94. 6. Cf. Parra's often-cited comment "Mi feminismo es moderado" [My feminism is moderate] (Obra escogida, vol. 2 [Caracas: Monte Avila, 1992], 19). 7. Susan Noakes examines "the woman reader's . . . relation to morality, especially sexual morality," and the ways the historical discrimination between good male reader and bad female reader "becomes crucial with the advent of Christianity" ("On the Superficiality of Women," in The Comparative Perspective on Literature: Approaches to Theory and Practice, ed. Clayton Koelb and Susan Noakes [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988], 346). 8. Susan Sniader Lanser, Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voice (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992), 71. Lanser notes that "without ever making gender an explicit issue . .[Austen's] narrator overturns the same hierarchies that [Susanna] Rowson's and [Mary] Wollstonecraft's prefaces protest and challenges the public's unthinking adoration of the alreadycanonical. While Austen certainly cherished the work of individual male writers-and I agree with Jocelyn Harris that she ‘took what she wanted from anywhere,‘ the narrator of NorthangerAbbey lacks any reverence for a male tradition per se and positions herself in the female-centered space whose absence Austen had protested." (70) 9. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Ware: Wordsworth, 1995), 21. 10. Susan Kirkpatrick, "Fantasy, Seduction, and the Woman Reader: Rosalia de Castro's Novels," in Culture and Gender in Nineteenth-Century Spain, ed. Lou Charnon-Deutsch and Jo Labanyi (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), 74-97. 11. Carla L. Peterson, The Determined Reader: Gender and Culture in the Novel from Napoleon to Victoria (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986), 19. 12. Edna Aizenberg, "El Bildungsroman fracasado en Latinoamerica: El caso de Ifigenia, de Teresa de la Parra," Revista iberoamericana 51 (1985): 543. 13. "Women were destined for domestic life only," Peterson continues, "and . . . study was viewed as distinctly unfeminine: it displayed an unfeminine form of egocentricity and immodesty, put women in the position of aping men's conduct, and was likely to make them aspire to positions of eminence reserved for men alone . . . the prohibition against novel reading . . . was specifically directed against young women." Novels were thought to "render them unfit for the drudgery of real life; they introduce[d] them to carnal knowledge and [might] even encourage them to engage in premarital affairs or adultery." (19; emphasis added) 14. Parra revisited the question of art imitating life, as opposed to life imitating art, in her defense of Ifigenia, which she argued only reflected the reality of Venezuelan society. 15. In her analysis of Austen's novel, for instance, Lanser outlines how Northanger Abbey "adopts from its opening sentence a discourse of negation . . . : "No one . . . would have supposed [Catherine Morland] born to be a heroine.‘ This parody of fictional conventions is followed by a jibe not only at heroines but arguably at writers whose works’ "heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives’." (69) 16. Parra's novel almost anticipates Virginia Woolf's thesis in A Room of One's Own. Although Maria Eugenia lacks fifty pounds a year (because her uncle has swindled her out of the remainder of her inheritance), she does have a space of her own in which to read, write, and reflect on female literary and social scripts. 17. Here again, Kirkpatrick's analysis of Castro is useful: "The Spanish term [Castro] uses-‘papel,‘ meaning both ‘part’ and ‘paper’-intensifies the theatricality implied by the concept of part as something scripted and assigned by society rather than by nature." (91) 18. Citing Martin Swales's work on Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Aizenberg reminds us that "the world of the theater, to which the protagonist affiliates himself at a certain moment in his formation, is the stage where he has the opportunity to extend the self through the adoption of diverse roles." (544) Aizenberg notes that the roles Maria Eugenia plays include the orphaned girl, Cinderella; the captive princess, Penelope; Juliet; a timid shepherdess; and, of course, the sacrificial victim of Greek tragedy (545). 19. One might add numerous other examples of mythical, biblical, and literary roles. Maria Eugenia alludes to such roles as the sphinx and the phoenix (554; 308), Rebekah-"Bien, entonces, como Rebeca a Eliezer, yo tambien, patriarcalmente, voy a darle de beber de mi agua clara" [Well, then, like Rebekah, in the patriarchal tradition, I'll give you [Gabriel] my water to drink] (530; 295)-and Shulamitah: "Soy tu doliente Sulamita" [I am your loving Shulamite] (342; 175). She cites the Song of Songs numerous times in a late chapter (cf. 552; 308). Finally, she refers to Santa Teresa and Sor Juana, often comparing herself to an ascetic in her cell, and frequently invokes the tradition of mysticism. 20. DuPlessis maintains that a female character can take control of her story, claiming "for herself the script of death usually punitively accorded female characters in her position" (17). 21. Ileana Rodriguez observes that "of [Parra's] reading list there is little to be said. Ifigenia is written using the prestigious, enlightened European discourses: French, German, English, Italian, and Spanish literatures occupy a supple textual space" (House/Garden/Nation: Space, Gender, and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Latin American Literatures by Women, trans. Robert Carr and Ileana Rodriguez [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994], 85). 22. Critics have noted various elements of Parra's literary "fusion." Orlando Araujo observes that in 1924 "Ifigenia was a true challenge both to the ‘manners’ of the time as well as to genre writing" (quoted in Gambarini, 190-91). Mattalia stresses Parra's reworking of the theme of "ill-fated love, of romantic heritage, very present in the Spanish American modernists, in counterpoint with the hero/society conflict so dear to nineteenth-century realism" (54). Aizenberg examines Ifigenia as an example of what Cynthia Steele terms the "failed Bildungsroman" in Spanish American fiction by women. See Cynthia Steele, "Toward a Socialist Feminist Criticism of Latin American Literature," Ideologies and Literature 4 (1983): 327. 23. We find other clear examples of the romance plot throughout the novel. Realizing that she and Gabriel Olmedo, the object of her ill-fated love, cannot be together, Maria Eugenia describes their relationship as "una historia vieja y triste que, juntos, por un momento, hemos mirado los dos esta maiana, como se miran todas las tristes y viejas historias de amor que pasaron en otros, hace ya muchos siglos, y que todavia se ven escritas en los libros, y clareando en los vitrales de las ventanas g6ticas, y pintadas en los cuadros antiguos donde el color ya se apaga, y bordadas en los tapices de gobelinos, y rimadas en los versos de todos los poetas" [an old and sad story that, together, for a moment, the two of us have looked at this morning, as one looks at all sad, old tales of love that happened in other times, many centuries ago, and that are still seen written in books and in the translucent stained glass of Gothic windows, and painted in antique pictures where the color is fading now, and embroidered in the tapestries of the Gobelins of France, and rhyming in the verses of all the poets.] (512-13; 283) She continues: "Es una historia vieja y triste en donde los amantes se murieron, como se mueren siempre los amantes en las tristes y viejas historias de amor . . . como su murieron Leandro y Hero; y Ofelia y Hamlet; y Tristan e Isolda; y los amantes de Teruel; y el palido Werther; y como murieron los perseguidos y torturados Romeo y Julieta" [It's an old and sad story, where the lovers died, as lovers always die in the sad, old tales of love . . as Leander and Hero died; and Ophelia and Hamlet; and Tristan and Iseult; and the lovers of Teruel; and pale Werther; and as the persecuted and tormented Romeo and Juliet died.] (513; 284) 24. For an earlier allusion to Maria Eugenia's foretelling (or imagining) what will or would happen see pp. 235-36 in the original, where she invents a dialogue among herself, Tio Pancho, Abuelita, and Tia Clara about her freedom and reading. 25. This description contrasts with her later account of Gabriel's kiss, in which she uses romantic cliches. Gabriel says, "A Julieta la hare yo revivir, como se revive a los que han muerto con muerte de frfo." [I'll make Juliet come back to life, the way one revives people who have died of cold.] (532; 297) She responds by tearing herself away, screaming a torrent of insults at him, and crying. But instead of her tears she feels "de veras como una brasa de fuego prendido en la ignorancia de mis labios." [Gabriel's burning kiss like a hot ember pressed upon [her] ignorant lips.] (534; 298) He promises that he will never do such a thing again, and this is what haunts her: his "nunca mas" [never again] reminds her of "el terrible anatema del cuervo: ‘nunca mas, nunca mas’" [the terrible anathema of the raven repeating "Nevermore, nevermore"] (534; 298), a clear allusion to Edgar Allan Poe. She later confesses that she cannot get rid of the sensation of Gabriel's lips on hers, "fijos en ella como las cicatrices de las brasas, cuando se dibujan prendidas en la piel se hacen eternas." [stuck tight, like scars made by hot coals, scars that will be there eternally.] (539; 300) This episode causes her to reconsider her earlier "opiniones mas absurdas y ridiculas acerca del beso" [most absurd and ridiculous opinions about kisses] (535; 298). 26. Parra's use of religious discourse deserves closer study, particularly the connection between religion and the female reader. As Peterson notes, nineteenth-century Christian educators were aware of potentially corrupting passages in the Bible and in prayer books and censored them for young female readers. Yet "many young people, particularly women, continued to peruse it [the Bible] in its entirety, and, like Flaubert's Emma Bovary, came to transfer notions of mystical communion and marriage with Jesus Christ to the area of sexual love." (15) Ifigenia offers numerous examples. 27. Letter by Parra, written in the voice of her protagonist, published in response to Lisandro Alvarado's article on Ifigenia in Elite, 19 December 1925, rpt. in Obra escogida, 203-10. 28. Doris Meyer, "‘Feminine’ Testimony in the Works of Teresa de la Parra, Maria Luisa Bombal, and Victoria Ocampo," in Contemporary Women Authors of Latin America, ed. Doris Meyer and Margarite Fernandez Olmos (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Brooklyn College Press, 1983), 8. 29. Alison Booth, introduction to Famous Last Words: Changes in Gender and Narrative Closure, ed. Alison Booth (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 2-3.