Not With the Program: Sandra Cisneros on Feeling and Being a Latina Writer in the Program Era

Corey Hickner-Johnson, University of Iowa
Vol. 37, No. 2 (Fall 2018), 377-396

This essay examines Sandra Cisneros’s experience as a Latina writer in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop during what Mark McGurl calls the Program Era. Through readings of her 1984 The House on Mango Street and her 2015 autobiographical book A House of My Own, this essay complicates standing theorizations of Program Era affects and emotions in order to develop a deeper understanding of the Program Era as a period of literary history. Integrating affect theory and other scholarship on emotion with Cisneros’s writing, the essay lays out the variety of textured feelings and attachments related to the Program Era experience, especially for writers of color and women writers. Readings of The House on Mango Street elucidate in particular Cisneros’s theory and aesthetics of esperanza—an understudied, wistful sort of hope conceptualized in the character of Esperanza. Through esperanza, Cisneros forges a mode of creative practice that nourishes hope, even amidst structural harm.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]