Languages Of Culture In Peruvian Literature, 1941-1994

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This dissertation seeks to explain, from the viewpoint of the Peruvian experience, how literature has served to both create and scrutinize the language of culture. I depart from the methodological assumption- extrapolated from language-oriented intellectual history-that concepts weave a distinct semantic field or "language game" that, while allowing us to recognize entities, state problems, and perform actions, also produces its own entanglements and paradoxes. My hypothesis is threefold: First, I argue that the term "culture," widely understood at present as a whole way of life that provides the ultimate basis for personal identity, is indeed part of a specialized and institutionalized language. Second, I maintain that this particular idiom, especially in peripheral countries, was furnished during the last century by anthropology. My third claim is that, in twentieth-century Peruvian literature, a gradual shift takes place from an early understanding of culture as pristine essence to one of effective resource. Thus I demonstrate that cultural identity emerges as topics of discussion and concern in Peru with José María Arguedas, whose poetic encloses the Andean people in a hermetic space, the touchstone of which is collective sensibility. In doing so, he brings to the fore the question of the currency of Andean culture and precipitates a then- unprecedented conflict between tradition and modernity. The more sophisticated response to this essentialist view of culture, which by definition overlooks any possibility of cultural change, is Mario Vargas Llosa's The Storyteller (1987), a fable of identity that finds in nomadism a metaphor for the theory of the social contract and thus endeavors, using Arguedas's own language, to solve his predicaments, albeit in an individualistic fashion. But the most significant shift in the language of culture is to be found in the stories of "bricheros," the gringa hunters from Cusco who impudently benefit from the stereotypes of Andean tradition and therefore redefine culture as a source not of identity, but rather of resources and opportunities. In engaging with these narratives, I aim to offer a critical examination of the social meanings of culture and the rise and fall of its languages.
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