“Distinguished Ladies” and the Doctrine of Womanhood: Auto-surveillance and Auto-performance in Diamela Eltit’s E. Luminata


  • Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle School of Humanities & Social Sciences, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, US



Autoperformativity, Diamela Eltit, Chilean Literature


This essay reads Diamela Eltit’s E. Luminata as form of auto-performative ‘anti-manual’  which  employs  a range  of  autobiographical  forms  and  functions  in  protest of codes of womanhood published in an actual manual of women’s con-duct authored by Augusto Pinochet’s First Lady and enforced by his regime’s National Secretariat of Women which organized forms of auto-surveillance by which women policed themselves and one another. It argues that if the NSW functioned as a mechanism for the surveillance and discipline of women in Pi-nochet’s police state, Eltit’s text functions as a subversive auto-performance of Chilean womanhood offered in protest against the state censorship of women’s autobiography. The reading demonstrates the ways in which E. Luminata stra-tegically performs Eltit’s own public self-representation of womanhood which, although meant to be impossible, is not unattainable in the regime.

This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing on October 19th 2015 and published on October 17th 2017.

Author Biography

Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, US

Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle is an associate professor of English at The College of New Jersey. She specializes in twentieth-century multiethnic and inter-American literature and autobiographical studies with specific interest in narratives of exile, immigration, and dictatorship throughout the Latin American diaspora. Her recent publications appear, or are forthcoming, in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, Life Writing Annual, and The European Journal of Life Writing. She is currently at work on a manuscript about Latin American women’s autobiographical writing and dictatorship.