La creación de submundos: Lo visual en la narrativa de Mario Vargas Llosa

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Benjamín Torres Caballero

Second Advisor

Dr. Irma López

Third Advisor

Dr. Jorge M. Febles

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Frances Ramos


This dissertation examines the increasing ontological tendencies characteristic of Mario Vargas Llosa’s narrative in the light of Brian McHale’s theory of the ontological dominant in postmodernist fiction. My project consists in the exploration of the function of the visual linked to the concept of “small worlds” which stem from characters’ interiority. My study highlights the way the Peruvian writer uses the linguistic sign to create images or to reproduce visual art (paintings, photographs) by means of the character’s fantasies or musings, which in tum, convert them into fictional authors. According to Umberto Eco, characters can conceive imaginary worlds, or “subworlds,” which are embedded within the fictional universe. I contend that in Vargas Llosa’s fiction, these subworlds are produced in a highly visual and animated fashion as if they were projected on a stage or a cinematic screen. I examine the way Vargas Llosa transforms his characters into producers of short films, which multiplies the levels of interpretation and sheds light on the fictional plot either revealing its ambiguity or destabilizing it by foregrounding the Creative process but consistently inducing readers’ involvement in the interpretation and recreation of the text. An analysis of the modes of construction and diversity of these embedded worlds leads the reader to reflect on the structural coherence of the fictional world and the mutual confrontation of the fictional world of reference with the subworlds also forces the reader to question the nature of the “real” world. In order to underline the evolution of character’s interiority, I have chosen to study novels presenting recurrent characters or those that manifest an increased complexity of their inner worlds. My exploration encompasses Conversación en La Catedral; Elogio de la madrastra; Los cuadernos de don Rigoberto; El hablador; La fiesta del Chivo y El Paraíso en la otra esquina. Lituma’s recurrent and fragmented image is examined in several texts but mainly in La casa verde; La tía Julia y el escribidor; La Chunga; ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? y Lituma en los Andes.


These ideas are now developed and expanded in a book titled Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa (Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2012), which is available from">Amazon or Iberoamericana">Iberoamericana

The dissertation is only available in its print form at call number: PP 9999.2 .H337 (Waldo Library, General Stacks)

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