Article Title / Título del artículo

Critical Ethics: Witnessing Otherness in La última niebla

Abstract / Resumen

La última niebla [The Final Mist] (1935) by María Luisa Bombal presents a female protagonist traumatized by the restrictive gender norms of 1930s Argentina. One would expect that the protagonist’s increasing alienation throughout the novel and her ultimate surrender to an identity that she loathes would generate a compassionate response from readers. However, the text has generated a significant body of notably unsympathetic—and even censorious—criticism from scholars. In an effort to analyze why Bombal’s novel and the protagonist’s performance have been problematic for critics, I turn from literary theory to philosophy. By combining Richard Rorty’s vision of a “literary culture” with Kelly Oliver’s theory of “witnessing,” I argue that we’ve been asking the wrong questions of this text. Rather than asking if the text, the author, and/or the protagonist are socially committed enough or experimental enough or feminist enough for us to care, we should be asking what this text reveals about the process of human subjectivity in general, marginalized subjectivity in particular, and how we can create more ethical relationships between self and other.