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thesis / dissertation description
This is a novel in the form of narrative poetry. The narrative tells the story of Miguel Rubio, mestizo (mixed race) son of a sugar plantation owner in the Philippines in the 1800s who yearns to go to Europe to study painting. However, once Miguel reaches Europe, he feels a sense of conflict within himself about his identity and a persistent feeling of "unbelonging." After finding success in Madrid he moves to Paris, where he falls in love with and marries a sheltered, asthmatic French girl, Ines, even though her mother objects to his mixed-race heritage. They have a son, Angel, but when he dies Miguel blames his wife for not taking care of the child. He becomes angry and depressed and attends a seance, and Ines feels isolated and ignored. After attending a lecture by Dr. Charcot, which features a woman patient as an exhibit, she decides to have her portrait painted so that her husband will once again acknowledge her. But when her nude portrait is exhibited at the Salon, it becomes a scandal and Miguel is humiliated. She goes away to a sanatorium where, feeling more lost, she has an affair with a doctor. Miguel is enraged and. suspecting that his wife has had an affair with the portrait painter, considers killing him, but instead decides to take Ines away from the corruption of Paris and return to the Philippines. When she defies him he kills her and is tried for her murder. The story is loosely based on the life of Juan Luna, the celebrated nineteenth-century Filipino painter who murdered his wife and mother-in-law at the height of his career in Paris. Juan Luna came of prominence at a point in Philippine history where Filipinos first began to think of themselves as a nation, not just Spanish subjects, and he confounded the institutionalized racism of the Spanish in the Philippines to achieve artistic recognition both at home and in Europe as one of the most talented painters of his generation. Although he was tried for the killings, he was acquitted and set free.