Description of the Final Phase of Augusto Roa Bastos’ Narrative

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Benjamin Torres Caballero

Second Advisor

Dr. Pablo Pastrana Perez

Third Advisor

Dr. Patricia Montilla

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Helene Weldt-Basson


mythical structure, intratextuality, code switching, Guaraní, Spanish literature, hero


Augusto Roa Bastos’ narrative before the publication of Vigilia del Almirante has received the attention of the literary critics, and numerous studies have been published on Hijo de hombre (1960), Yo, el Supremo (1974), and his short stories. However, his last novels have not received the same critical interest. Vigilia del Almirante (1992), El fiscal (1993), Contravida (1994) y Madama Sui (1995) have elicited few critical studies. These four novels together comprise the less-studied narrative of Roa Bastos. They are the object of this study.

I examine three aspects of the aforementioned novels: a) the structure based on the concepts defined by Vladimir Propp on the morphology of the folk tale and of development of the protagonists as archetypes based on the concepts of Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell and Juan Villegas; b) the intertextuality / intratextuality as defined by Julia Kristeva; and c) the language as subject to the linguistic analysis of literary code switching.

The mythic structure of the Roa Bastos’ novels has been studied only in the case of Yo, el Supremo by Pedro Paredes (1981). This is not the case for Roa Bastos’ other novels. The journey of the literary heroes of Roa Bastos, as we will see, is developed as a mythic structure, the character of which is postulated as universal (C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, Juan Villegas).

The intertextuality and the intratextuality are widely utilized in the first phase of Roa Bastos’ narrative (until 1992). The author makes intertextual references to texts of diverse origin —mostly literary and historical—in order to confer more depth to his stories. With the intratextuality, the author alludes to his own narrative in order to modify the plot or the protagonists that populate his work.

By employing lexical terms, grammatical structures, and popular expressions from Guaraní, Roa Bastos gives voice to Guaraní culture in its own, original language. The presence of literary code switching, that is, of the inclusion of Guaraní with literary ends, in these novels is analyzed. The density of literary code switching adds levels of linguistic, political and social depth as a reflection of the world view of the Guaraní myths and legends.

This study on Augusto Roa Bastos’ narrative is composed of six chapters, which include an Introduction and a Conclusion. The Introduction is related to general aspects of the work of the author and to some of the most prominent characteristics of the organization of the aforementioned novels. In the next four chapters I analyze each novel based on how it parallels the mythic scheme and the presence of intertextuality, intratextuality and literary code switching as the three chosen aspects to elaborate a description of the last phase of Roa Bastos’ narrative. The last chapter includes the conclusions of this study.

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