Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Susan Mooney, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Madeline Camara, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ylce Irizarry, Ph.D.


Bearing Witness, Cuba, Wound, Dominican Republic, Latinx, Testimonio


Remembrance of a Wound: Ethical Mourning in the Works of Ana Menéndez, Elías Miguel Muñoz, and Junot Díaz explores Latinx experiences of ethical mourning, an act akin to a scar remaining after a wound heals. This literary ethical mourning respects the memories of people and places no longer present. I define ethical mourning in Derridean terms and connect it to testimonio to illustrate how certain Cuban American and Dominican American characters, having lost their homeland through exile, immigration, and political turmoil, become practiced at mourning. For Derrida, ethical mourning employs poetic language to bear witness to a loss in such a way that makes fully coping impossible. In other words, ethical mourning treats mourning as an incomplete and ongoing process, much like the formation of identity is unfixed and recurrent.

Menéndez, Muñoz, and Díaz develop narratives and poetics of incomplete mourning and engage its ethical ramifications for narratives of the Latinx experience, particularly those by exiles from the repressive regimes of Fidel Castro’s Cuba and Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina’s Dominican Republic. My interdisciplinary interpretation and evaluation of mourning—using Derridean thought, affect theory, and testimonio—looks to supplement Latinx literature scholarship by addressing how Latinx authors and their characters cope with loss as a result of colonialism and coerced immigration or exile.

Mourning is diverse, changing, and ongoing in these narratives. In Menéndez’s In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd (2001), I analyze the characters’ self-transformations as they mourn Cuba and lost loved ones. In Muñoz’s The Greatest Performance (1991), the author contests the compartmentalization of identity through two queer Cuban outcasts and their friendship as told through a fantasy narrative. In Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), I reveal the interstices between Dominican ethnicity, writing, history, and politics created through ethical remembrances.

This study considers how loss—of homeland, rejected lover, and deceased love—poses a crucial challenge for characters in these literary works. Through characters in exile, these Latinx authors explore the ethical possibilities inherent in the pain of loss. In this way, I contest notions of assimilation and nostalgia for the Latinx subject, seeing the act of mourning as a poetic vision and possibility for both personal and political states of being that are continually renewed and transformed in the spirit of resistance.