A Study of Irony in Selected Texts From "Poemas Humanos" by Cesar Vallejo.

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Alfredo R. Lozada


Cesar Vallejo, one of Latin America's foremost poets of the twentieth century, has been achieving universal renown through the dissemination of his poetic works in translation. Much of the appeal of his lyricism resides in its embodiment of what Vallejo himself has called "emocion vital," coupled with a celebration of the intellect, a union which functions felicitously via a poetic sensibility that portrays faithfully the existential contradictions of the human condition from both an individual and a collective viewpoint. The shaping principle in the portrayal of these contradictions is thematic and stylistic irony. Though critics have acknowledged the existence of irony in Vallejo's poetry, their commentary has been largely sporadic and vague. While there is an apparent difference of opinion as to whether the nature of this phenomenon is primarily tragic or satiric, none of these critics has adequately defined the nature of these ironies in their respective investigations; and no systematic study of the poetry has been undertaken along these lines. Moreover, some of Vallejo's many critics, including Jean Franco and Gonzalo Sobejano, among others, have suggested that ironic expression is inferior to the so-called "committed" poetic expression which they claim characterizes the poet's final book, Espana, aparta de mi este caliz. This investigation is an initial step in the examination of this very apparent phenomenon in Vallejo's poetic works. To achieve its objective, the investigation examines several poems from Poemas humanos (ca. 1931-37), regarded by many critics and by the present investigator as the acme of Vallejo's poetic abilities. The study is primarily one of interpretation; that is, it proposes to make vivid the presence of ironic "meanings" in the selected texts. Concomitantly, the work may serve as a point of departure for further study into the role of irony in Vallejo's poetry as a whole, and it may help situate the poet more solidly among those artists belonging to the Latin American literary avant-garde.





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