Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Oscar Rivera-Rodas

Committee Members

Michael Handelsman, Nuria Cruz-Camara, Russel HIrst


This dissertation analyzes the meta-poetic and historicist thought in Ernesto Cardenal and Roberto Fernández Retamar’s poetry. The concept these poets have poetry is closely related to the historical moment of their times. They ponder about poetry and its function, poetic thought that is nourished by a historical consciousness. This close relationship between poetry and history inevitably includes sensitivity to the social situation in their respective countries and in Latin America. These poets seek to understand the concrete reality thus coming closer to the truth of things. The study shows that these poets, based on history and poetic thought, assume their own literary and cultural tradition: modernism (1880-1916) and the avant-garde (1916-1930) that constitute Hispanic American modernity. They denounce foreign interference in Hispanic America which was experienced not only since the colonial period but after the independence of their nations. These poets ponder past events and record their own historical experiences in order to benefit readers. For this reason, as I describe in this dissertation, these poets use a language accessible to the public without weakening the transcendence of their message. With great confidence Cardenal and Fernández Retamar announce the creation of a better society and the collapse of worldwide hegemonic powers.

This work demonstrates that Cardenal denounces the way the powerful sectors of society deceive the people through the writings or through modern communications media. He reflects on the role of writing in other historical periods in Hispanic America. He conceives poetry as prayer, whose properties allow denouncements of the evils of society. Cardenal uses intertextuality to delve into historical aspects in the past and find a guide to current challenges. For his part, this study also shows that Fernández Retamar's poetry accompanies the process that brought about the Cuban Revolution. Meanwhile there is a historic change in their countries; poetry also undergoes a transformation. In addition, Fernández Retamar includes in his concerns not only his country but the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. He believes in the importance of recovering the thought of preceding Latin American thinkers in order to understand the reality of the region.

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