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Six— Alfonsina Storni: The Tradition of the Feminine Subject
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Alfonsina Storni: The Tradition of the Feminine Subject

Marta Morello-Frosch

The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them.
T. S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"

translated by
Michael Bradburn-Ruster

If we take as our starting point the definition stated in the epigraph, tradition could be categorized as the space wherein a consensus is developed between the works of the past and of the present, a space in which modern readers reformulate and reinterpret—in short, read—what is received.[1] It is from such readings that the transformations that renew and modify the cultural production of the present arise. In this transforming activity the function of reading prevails, anticipating the formulation of a new writing.

Women writers must add to these functions that of making problematic literary past that has been bestowed on them already made by others, one in which their only possible participation has been as passive receivers. Thus, under the weight of an alien and exclusionist tradition, yet molded by that very tradition, they often maintain an ambiguous relationship with this past, which, if they do not in fact acknowledge it as their own, has to a great extent shaped them both socially and culturally. For if on one hand woman has often been identified as the maintainer of tradition, as opposed to man's eminently historical, consciously renovative character, she has had to maintain practices that were not her own. Moreover, she has often been obliged to defend this alien corpus diligently, since the private sphere, recognized as specifically feminine, was governed by essentially traditional norms and customs, a doxa affected but little by historical ocurrence. Yet this preassigned function was not always assumed in a passive manner. Ever since Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, feminine literary production in Latin America demonstrates that women writers have known how to reelaborate tradition, to appropriate its most effective weapons, and often to demonstrate the social and historical arbitrariness of its premises and the imminent obsolescence of many of its configurations.

It should be clarified that any woman writer has an initial advantage


when she confronts the tradition, for precisely the reasons mentioned: she does in fact regard the tradition as an alien discourse, as a nonorigin, and for this very reason she can approach it in an iconoclastic manner—ironize it, modify it, deconstruct it in order to expose its imperfect functioning. The question is not, as Roland Barthes might say, that the reader—in this case a woman—has no history, biology, or psychology.[2] Rather, it is that women, precisely as a result of having been marginalized from history and its production, have not developed their subjectivity exclusively in terms of participation in or in relationship to authorized origins.[3] Therefore, having been systematically deinstitutionalized, marginalized, de-authorized, they have a relationship to this tradition-text that differs radically from that of men. It is a discourse of omissions, pressures, and prior denials that can be, and indeed often are, assumed affirmatively, inasmuch as these leave the feminine subject "free of baggage," at liberty to formulate what is her own and to celebrate her difference not as an aesthetic phenomenon—a function sometimes accorded her even by hegemonic masculine discourse[4] —but rather as a project of resistance and realignment. Out of necessity, then, and in reaction to the presumed universality of the tradition, the feminine response will be partial and provisional, will adopt representations of a collective nature[5] —since it will speak for all women, even literary archetypes—and will take stock of the possible approaches or alternatives to proclaimed tradition. This plural and exploratory impulse will also allow the inclusion of diverse forms of difference, giving voice to a multiple succession of voices as opposed to the univocal nature of manifest tradition.

For man to rebel against tradition as well—to de-authorize it while deauthorizing himself in the process—would almost be suicide, for he would thereby deny his identity as a possible follower or inheritor of remote and transmittable origins in order to become different from them. Woman, however, simply becomes herself, asserts her identity, authorizes herself, and assumes her own destiny in separating herself from this tradition, in declaring that it is not and never has been hers.

The woman writer, furthermore, with this break undertakes her long journey toward attaining a genuinely feminine and consciously feminist voice and discourse. In this study, then, we shall refer to the break with a hegemonic tradition, a break we detect in many Latin American women writers of the 1920s. It is not the case that these writers had no identifiable literary precursors—some of whom were mentioned in the new texts—but rather that these precursors had not yet formed an alternative tradition. This is evident in the work of women in the 1920s, with its attempt to question the masculine tradition: to modify, complete, and criticize it. The women writers faced representations of themselves which they did not recognize. In the traditional discourse of the Other the woman writer did not discover "un sujet à aimer,"[6] but rather a distorted, grotesque image of what she felt her-


self to be. The woman writer, then, had to reconstitute her subjectivity in terms of her own gender and sex, and to do so she gave her reading of the received tradition.

As the object of this study we have selected two poems of Alfonsina Storni which belong to the tradition of the love lyric. In them the poet appraises and modifies this genre, which had been rigidly codified as much by literary precept as by literary history, even in its most significant and authorizing association: that conferred by the divine origin of the amorous impulse and the literature that shapes it. We shall contrast two poems that designate traditional archetypes: the Don Juan figure in "Divertidas estancias a Don Juan" and the figure of the "untouched" and hence perfect beloved in "Tú me quieres blanca."[7] In analyzing these two poems we intend to explicate the author's position with regard to both the literary tradition she consciously invokes and her new feminist propositions. The latter are the product of a new and very active reading of the tradition as sociocultural artifact, and the options suggested reveal historical conditions different from the traditional ones, therefore requiring a shift in the discursive boundaries and a redefinition of the spaces thus created. In this way the author seeks to constitute her identity within the boundaries that the culture offers her at a specific moment, and that she identifies as a given present (in "Don Juan") or an attainable future ("Tú me quieres blanca"). Both instances register transformations and change, and testify to the provisional nature of the new discourse at the same time that they question the immovability of the old. In opposition to the fixed concept of tradition, the reformulation insists on this destabilizing process, on the new possibilities ushered in by the change, and especially on a new awareness that results in new identities.

Some of the conditions that make this revision of tradition possible have to do with Storni's life, her personal and social experiences. The relationship between these experiences and the discourse she adopted served to shape both the kind of feminism she articulated and her unique vision of the tradition. It would be fitting, then, to note some of these personal circumstances before analyzing the text.

Certain dramatic circumstances in Storni's private life—in particular her position as an unwed mother and as an immigrant of the poor middle class, and finally her suicide—have been generative keys in many readings of her poetry. Much less studied have been her journalistic, pedagogical, and theatrical works; in short, her public activity during that era.[8]

Storni began to publish at the time the First World War was declared.[9] An abundance of material testifies to her participation in newspapers and the public sphere on behalf of democratic forces, as well as to her work in schools for disadvantaged children.[10] Her activities coincided with workers' movements and proposals for social change in both national and international spheres.[11]


Storni's labor during the 1920s represents the emergence of a class of professional women, of recent immigrant origin, who joined with groups of workers and feminists of the era in search of solutions to the problem of marginality. Like other intellectual women of her age, Storni—a journalist, teacher, actress, and activist writer—exemplifies the labor of this new class—a product, to a large extent, of the normalista culture, as she herself remarks: "They come partly from the normalista culture: the majority of South American women writers are teachers and, as a result of intellectual ferment, oppose their social milieu more than they serve its traditional forms."[12]

In the title of the first poem we shall analyze, "Divertidas estancias a Don Juan" [amusing stanzas to Don Juan], the great lover is perceived as an object of mockery rather than one who mocks, as tradition has defined him.

Noctámbulo mochuelo,
Por fortuna tú estás
Bien dormido en el suelo
Y no despertarás.

Si tu sombra se alzara
Vería a la mujer
Midiendo con su vara
Tu aventura de ayer.

La flaca doña Elvira,
La casta doña Inés,
Hoy leen a Delmira,
Y a Stendhal, en francés.

Caballeros sin gloria,
Sin capa y sin jubón,
Reaniman tu memoria
A través de un salón.

No escalan los balcones
Tras el prudente aviso,
Para hurtar corazones
Imitan a Narciso.

Las muchachas leídas
De este siglo de hervor
Se mueren aburridas
Sin un cosechador.

Más que nunca preciosas,
Oh gran goloso, están.
Mas no ceden sus rosas.
No despiertes, don Juan.


Que no ha parado en vano
La aventurera luna:
Hoy tu castigante mano
No hallaría fortuna.

Y hasta hay alguna artera,
Juguetona mujer,
Que toma tu manera
Y ensaya tu poder.

The first verse continues the belittlement of the figure of the great seducer by calling him "noctámbulo mochuelo" [little night owl], preferring the reference to the predatory but diminutive bird of night, a character from popular proverbs, as opposed to the falcon or hawk of traditional amorous pursuit. If indeed the poem describes to us a dead Don Juan, "bien dormido en el suelo" [fast asleep on the floor], the vision of the great lover recumbent is utterly devoid of the activity and the terror that his condition might arouse. His ghost would see not the great commander, but rather a woman, who judges his adventures with a masculine staff, not as a victim. It is precisely those victims, transformed now by reading—the experience of other discourses—who are no longer subject to an eternal, passive waiting for the lover. The men, too, appear transformed; diminished, "sin gloria, sin capa y sin jubón" [without glory, without cape or doublet], they merely mill about the salons, a narrow field for heroic endeavor, a cramped but appropriate stage for the superficial activities of these narcissistic gallants.

It is important to observe that the women's new experience is reiterated as being a product of reading (they are "muchachas leídas"—well-read girls), which has transformed their behavior: they are waiting for a harvester, but not for Don Juans. Whoever harvests has cultivated; he does not steal roses as Don Juan would do. In vain the seducer raises an angry hand to defend himself, for his previous good fortune has run out. The times have obviously changed; chance is no longer his accomplice in deception, a tactic perhaps befitting the woman who is his cunning ("artera") disciple. This possible reversal of roles is characterized negatively by the adjective "cunning," which defines the seductress as a practitioner of wicked ways and as frivolous ("juguetona," or minx). It is thus a question of discursively reducing the figure of the seducer to that of a recumbent or sleeping trickster who has been outwitted, perhaps chastened, whose example no longer holds sway for vigorous masculine models or for dreaming women. The latter have now transformed themselves, by virtue of reading, into subjects of their own destiny ("no ceden sus rosas"—they do not surrender their roses), even when they choose to become flagrant imitators of Don Juan.

Noteworthy is the fact that in contrast to Don Juan's constant amorous activity, his sudden shifts, his incessant self-indulgence in the pursuit of vic-


tims, the poem opposes a conceptual world of reflective women who read, who judge the conduct of the man-seducer, who decide for themselves to whom and in what circumstances they will grant their reward. The reference to roses evokes the traditional bestowal of the reward by the woman to the knight, the fortunate harvester who has previously had to prove himself worthy in jousts or lyrical competitions. Roses, the traditional prize of poetry contests, again show a preference for poetic practice, for the intellect over other forms of activity.

Thus the poem presents Don Juan as an obsolete figure who no longer holds sway in a world of reading women. It is precisely this new occupation, reading, that annuls the possibility that the Don Juans of the salon might meet with luck.

If Storni notes with this poem the depreciation of donjuanismo , the aggressive and unbridled masculine erotic impulse, on the other hand she assigns an ambiguous function to the girls who read, who die of boredom ("se mueren de aburridas") in a world where man will be the laggard. In this way she points out a disparity between modern man and the new modern woman. Men equally transformed by new experiences are absent: the only models to appear in the poem are the stale gallants of the salon and a Don Juan fast asleep on the floor. On the other hand, the newly literate women—if through literature they have indeed broadened their frame of reference—could discover dubious liberating models in Stendhal, although perhaps they might well feel represented by Delmira Agustini's poetic discourse.

The position of the poetic voice is an ambiguous one, for if it does in fact cancel one tradition, it proclaims the need for another without defining it, yet notes the signs of its coming into being. Thus the poem accepts and addresses the contradictions, the partial meanings, the mistakes that are part of the process of transformation Storni depicts, of the new relationships between the subject—in this case, women—and the text, suggesting that this is a provisional configuration in which the new components of feminine subjectivity have not yet formed a homogeneous and congruent whole. Nevertheless, the poem bars all possibility of reversal or of binary structure by authenticating the gradual constitution of a new subject, who will be none other than the woman reader. She will not be, like Emma Bovary, a victim of a literary process of becoming unreal. On the contrary, by augmenting the referential capacity of women, reading transforms the nature of her previous and future experiences.

The book El dulce daño ,[13] contains the poem "Tú me quieres blanca" ("You Want Me to Be White"). If this work has not in fact deserved the attention granted to "Hombre pequeñito" from Irremediablemente ,[14] the earlier text proposes a rereading of the traditional aims of love poetry, a radical restatement of amorous discourse in terms of a new feminine subjectivity. Hence it is not simply a question of denouncing the "smallness of men" as in


the later poem, but rather of postulating a complete program for the reconstitution of the lover in terms acceptable to the enunciating feminine subject. She does not protest her condition as victim by denouncing the victimizer, but rather suggests new conditions for amorous dialogue which take into account, modify, and annul the models established by cultural tradition.[15]

Starting from a notation of differences, in Michel Foucault's sense,[16] the beginning of the text recites the definition of woman as opposite inscription of the masculine:

Tú me quieres alba,
Me quieres de espumas,
Me quieres de nácar.
Que sea azucena
Sobre todas, casta.
De perfume tenue.
Corola cerrada.
Ni un rayo de luna
Filtrado me haya.
Ni una margarita
Se diga mi hermana.
Tú me quieres nívea,
Tú me quieres blanca,
Tú me quieres alba.[17]

Here it is a question of emphasizing the oppositional binarity woman/man, from which a masculine subject has created the other. This strategy is shared by most love poetry, the genre invoked by Storni's recitative, yet her poem leaves no doubt that this is an alien construction. In speaking of genre, and in order to establish a base from which the modifications proposed by the poet may be observed, we have in mind the particular configuration of terms, themes, modes, and symbols that, according to Northrop Frye,[18] can give shape to a literary convention, once they have been generalized through adoption and repetition to the point where they form a body of texts. It should also be remembered that the issue here is not only one of noting how the traditions of literary history operate but also, as Jurij Tynjanov remarks,[19] how the mutations of such systems are formed in relation to cultural and social orders annexed to those systems, since the literary system changes its relations to other systems that it tries to "translate" or to organize as knowledge.

It seems to us that this is precisely what Storni succeeds in doing with this initial concept of the feminine as cloister, as a blank page to be inscribed by the masculine subject.[20] Femininity is thus conceived as a project, a surface smooth (like that of the blank page) and undifferentiated: sealed petals, through which even moonbeams have not filtered (let us not forget that the moon is traditionally associated symbolically or biologically with the femi-


nine). Most especially, femininity is alone, lacking affiliation even with flowers ("Ni una margarita/Se diga mi hermana"—not even a daisy may be called my sister), excluded and exclusory, devoid of all referentiality, closed to all self-significance except for whiteness—a metaphor of absence, colorlessness, lack of meaning. We should note that the syntax itself recreates a fixed object, not actualized, but of a nature absolutely predetermined by the masculine subject: "de espumas," "de nácar," "azucena," "de perfume tenue" [of foam, of nacre, white lily, of a rarefied perfume]. The passivity of this object, already formed but still lacking vital breath, unmarked, is intensified by the peculiar syntax of the first two strophes, in which she is a receptacle neither penetrated by rays nor called sister. The dependency of this entity—which is immobile yet already defined with certitude by the enunciating subject—is substantiated by the particular verbal construction: ". . . Filtrado me haya. / Ni una margarita / Se diga mi hermana." [. . . has filtered through to me. Not even a daisy may be called my sister]. The passive constructions reiterate the inactivity of the concept "beloved" ("amada").

The dynamic by which the woman is construed as an object and the product of such an objectificaton are here the result of the authorial vision of a masculine subjectivity that invents her, desires her precisely thus: distanced, isolated, untouched. Desirable precisely on account of these lacks, the woman is turned into an object that at once resists possession and referentiality and is desired, as the expression "you want me" reiterates. In this way the feminine is converted into a contradictory rhetorical figure, a kind of oxymoron, abandoning everything—including the man—outside of herself and defined by her lack of relation to the rest of the world. While this strophe is articulated around the dominance of the active verb "quieres" [you want], the amorous semantic component disappears from the verb, thereby yielding to the exercise of the will: the authority of the other and his de-eroticized desire. For it is a matter of his desiring something that has nothing, that does nothing, that is scarcely seen, and especially that has no voice of its own. The precarious status of this feminine object, according to the enunciation of the masculine subject, is revealed in its nature—unnamed, empty (in Lacanian terms),[21] unmarked, absent. It is rhetorically marked by the metaphors that compare its attributes to evanescent, perishable natural objects: unopened bud, foam, morning fog, white lily.

In this regard, the feminine image is conceived in terms similar to those of courtly love, in which the elaboration and expression of the poet's desires are structurally dependent upon the absence of the beloved. As one element in the possibility of versification, feminine nature is established in this tradition as eccentric to the poem: absent and inaccessible. In the poem, the poet articulates his desire for the distant other. The tension is based on the lack of correspondence at various levels between the lover and the desired object.


The other—the woman—enters only to share with the subject the same system in the poem, which is thus transformed into an attempt to capture or mediate a form of correspondence that cannot be attained in any other way. For that reason this type of poetry is often characterized by the impulse to recover or reconstruct an object that is absent, illusory, fleeting.[22] It should also be emphasized that this eccentricity of the amorous object is based on a manifest difference.

Storni gives us a new version of how this opposition to the masculine can be converted. For if indeed the first two strophes cited demonstrate the operative rules for the fabrication of the other—of the beloved by the masculine subject—through the invocation of figures that are inert, fixed, or drastically perishable (in other words, not subject to operations of transformation), she will propose another model, moving beyond the "you want me ivory fair" ("tú me quieres alba") of the last verse cited toward another "you" operating in another system:

Tú que hubiste todas
Las copas a mano,
De frutos y mieles
Los labios morados.
Tú queen el banquete
Cubierto de pámpanos
Dejaste las carnes
Festejando a Baco.
Tú que en los jardines
Negros del engaño
Vestido de rojo
Corriste al estrago.
Tú que el esqueleto
Conservas intacto
No sé todavía
Por cuáles milagros,
Me pretendes blanca
(Dios te lo perdone),
Me pretendes casta
(Dios te lo perdone),
¡ Me pretendes alba!

Here Storni resorts precisely to the concept of difference—not to define the "other," however, but to expand a single term ("you") while codifying it in two utterly distinct systems: the "you want me" versus the "you who did." The repeated use of preterites evokes the historical and finite character of his actions and, as if in a negative mirror, contrasts the chromatic history of his gallant adventures (dressed in red, through black gardens of deceit) with her predetermined whiteness of the first strophe. Storni does not privatize the differentiation of gender, but rather exhumes it from a now more obviously


modernist tradition, to account for the sociohistorical character of the creation of gender, especially of the masculine subject (gallant). That "tú" is converted into the image of the courtier who attends not love feasts but bacchanals in which he indulges the flesh; he is one who consumes honeys and fruits and who in his ghostly aspect and function has more of the vampire than the man about him: a totally devitalized vision, a presage of the death of that skeleton who yearns for her to be white. He appears at the threshold of an end that has been "miraculously" delayed, in an almost unnatural manner. The end of the third strophe establishes the extraordinary comparison between this skeletal presence and his aspirations of whiteness and chastity with regard to her. The bivalence of the phrase "May God forgive you that," between ironic and sympathetic, establishes rhetorically the distancing that has already been conceptually stated. With this ambiguous expression a new form of amorous conceptismo is introduced in which a new rule of exchange arises: sorrow for the dissipated man? compassion for a ruined image of being?

The rhetoric allows an isolation of the feminine subject, a distancing that is not exclusion now but a new positionality that will facilitate a critical, balanced, reasoned, and leveled vision, from which the new feminine subject can formulate her model:

Huye hacia los bosques;
Vete a la montaña;
Límpiate la boca;
Vive en las cabañas;
Toca con las manos
La tierra mojada;
Alimenta el cuerpo
Con raíz amarga;
Bebe de as rocas;
Duerme sobre escarcha;
Renueva tejidos
Con salitre y agua;
Habla con los pájaros
Y lévate al alba.
Y cuando las carnes
Te sean tornadas,
Y cuando hayas puesto
En ellas el alma
Que por las alcobas
Se quedó enredada,
Entonces, buen hombre,
Preténdeme blanca,
preténdeme nívea,
preténdeme casta.


Now a new proposal is articulated through an exhortative, almost imperative program, which rhetorically assumes full authorial responsibility on the part of the poet. In this new function, feminine subjectivity delineates a model for the man, in a project wherein a new form of sensuality is invoked for the reconstitution of the lover. For if she had in fact been defined by a masculine discourse that separated her from the cultural and even from the sensual, the model she suggests locates the lover precisely in the realm that has been assigned to her: in nature, not in culture.

Yet this new feminine subjectivity rejects the culturally defined binarity of the two previous strophes, in which sexual difference appears as an obvious construction codified in the social realm. The poet—the new subject—abandons the patriarchies of culture and history, and from her own formerly minimal referentiality, nature, dictates not merely a new program to reconstitute the masculine but also a new meaning of love, giving rise to a sort of program of antiseduction. For what she proposes for this man who has lost nearly everything is a future: to restore the body, to establish sensual contact with the earth and the waters so as to be purified, and, like a modern Lazarus, to regain his lost flesh, which can only then be an abode for the soul. If she was desired as a pure project, a sealed body, he is reconstituted as a body-dwelling, as a possible receptacle of a soul that is at no point prescribed, as he too is capable of being reborn, but in fresh terms of purity.

This new purity, then, will not be the product of ascetic practices, of isolation, of seclusion. On the contrary, it will result from a dynamic of contact with the natural, from interaction, from drinking, touching, and being in the world in the broadest sense, to become connected to ample and open spaces, not pure yet without vitiations such as the courtly gardens, banquets, and bedchambers that he once frequented and by which he was defined. Now man-nature, he can at last aspire to her; he is pure by dint of contact, not through isolation, nor owing to the purity of the "other" or to her desired seclusion.

If traditionally he desired her to be without history, uninscribed, he himself, according to the cultural bipolarity of the genre, was the opposite icon. But the poet refuses to be the inverted mirror of what he signifies, and she proposes an active regimen of corporal and sensual integration by means of which his soul will be able to anchor itself. She further refuses to be the complementary or negative description of his identity, defining him in his present and past in a direct discourse, with a minimum of totally transparent cultural metaphors in which he appears as that which is finite, completed. Thus she destroys the obvious binary construction established in the first two strophes: she as project, he as the agent who grants life and speech, a little god who can induce sealed petals to a significant unfolding. In this initial bipolar premise we encounter a paradigm of a fixed nature, in which the binary model implies the existence of a primordial masculine element and


a complementary feminine element, in a relation like that of signifier and signified. But the poet rejects as a cultural dogma this logic of binary oppositions and recreates the image of woman as a subject responsible for the production of culture and history, as well as a source of authority and of proposals for change and action in which male-female relationships are no longer predetermined by the separation culture/nature.

If the unfolding and completion of the body and soul are to be the medium of exchange between the sexes, as the image initially evoked suggests, the poet articulates her subjectivity in her desire for an other who is also complete in relation to the natural—repostulated, as we have seen, in terms of contact. Storni thus reverses the traditional conception of man as representative of culture and woman of nature, the latter ready to be provided with history by the man, who is the conqueror of the feminine and the natural. By doing so the poet disposes of the traditional dichotomy of feminine and masculine gender, a dichotomy that historically is based on the centrality and identity of the masculine subjectivity that describes, invents, utters the other, be this woman, slave, or colonized people.[23]

It seems to us that in addition to proposing a new model for the masculine, the latter's inherent character has been feminized. This new masculine "you" is now natural and purified—although not pure—and the poet casts away the specific cultural notation of absence and separation as signs of purity, while reactivating the concept of purification in direct relationship to contact with the environment. In this way she frees herself from obsolete models and puts an end to their dominance by suggesting a model that is not modernist or courtly or protean (of romantic provenance). Furthermore, the poet replaces the idea of completion through enclosure, proposing by contrast the reconstitution of a body emaciated by cultural and amatory excesses. Conceptually and rhetorically, then, she suggests a leveling of positions: she, too, can create models. Yet there is a difference in the operative rules, for while he wants, she exhorts; while he exercises his will upon her, she urges him to exercise it upon himself, and by inciting him to act upon himself she avoids the appropriation of the other which prevails in the original structure. She further suggests a new conception of the verb "pretender" [to solicit, desire, endeavor], which becomes dynamic in the dialectic of the one who appeals, who entreats. In short, we move from an initial system that is socially and culturally static, one to which he alone has access, through a devitalizing, moribund system of deceptive bacchanals toward a system that is open, active. This last phase is supported by the use of verbs—flee, go, feed, drink, sleep—which will be summed up in the synthesis of the restorative project: renew. Only then, renewed, will he be worthy of the qualifier "good man" ("buen hombre"), syntactically paired and conceptually balanced with "Desire me to be white" ("Preténdeme blanca").

Thus Storni suggests a new kind of exchange between equals: two com-


plete beings, without either absences or lacks, who are related to their environment, rooted. In this manner she proposes an equitable exchange that in the poem disposes of obsolete models and an oppressive discursive rhetoric: the binary structure of opposites, in which the masculine subject invented the feminine as a signifier of himself and a locus of meaning for all his relationships of implicit domination. Actually, the poles were never equivalent, but indeed different and very unequal: one formed and the other needing to be formed, one present and one absent in relation to the already constituted speaking subject. For there exists a basic contract in this arrangement wherein the masculine has a central, starring role that is preassigned in the symbolic construction, apart from and excluding the feminine presence, silent and white. The preexistence of the man as the authority who utters, as already formed subjectivity, relegates the feminine to an imaginary territory of foam, mist, seclusion, to a prelinguistic zone, the limbo of subjectivity. In "Tú me quieres blanca" this masculine authorial vision and the tradition that validates it are in the end supplanted by another in which the feminine speaker enters to dictate her conditions, not only to propose a new model for the masculine but also to constitute herself as another subject within the natural.

The discursive realignment is carried out with certain tensions that are rhetorically marked by the phrases "you want me" ("tú me quieres," a factual quotation, a pure present from which he has spoken and has been culturally recognized) and "wish me, ask me" ("preténdeme"), the final point of persuasion, a verbal notation full of potentiality that connotes desire, appeal, entreaty, with the possibility—between comparable beings—but not the certainty that what is requested will be conferred.

That is the heart of the matter: an exchange under new terms, between equals, and in broad daylight. It is a new sort of contract, subverting the model of deceitful seduction as well as the one of the appropriation of assets presumed to belong to no one. Here the figure of Don Juan and that of the untouched beloved exemplify two external and opposite archetypes of traditional discourse which mythify masculine aggression and feminine passivity and, in so doing, authorize them. Alfonsina Storni's critical reading questions—in one case with irony, in the other with an alternative program—the possible modifications of the proposed models. Cautious about assuming a stance of opposition or reversal toward traditional poetic utterance, she designates new discursive spaces wherein a dialogue between equals should be able to take place.

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