The Making of Jorge Luis Borges as an Argentine Cultural Icon

  • Mariana Casale

Student thesis: Phd


Jorge Luis Borges, a literary figure intimately linked to Argentina's sense of cultural identity, has evoked both veneration and vilification among the country's intellectuals and the general public. Despite the vast amount of work written about his life and work in Argentina and abroad, no comprehensive examination of the construction of the author as an Argentine cultural icon has been produced so far. This thesis focuses on Borges as cultural signifier and it examines the often conflicting facets of the construction of Borges as icon. It argues that the ideas, hopes, fears and demands that Argentine people have placed upon the author - thus constructing the icon - are also those that allow them to define their cultural identity. Thus, the study sheds light on the mechanisms of the ongoing construction of Argentine identity and exposes the complexity of the process by drawing from critical, political and media discourses.The main images and conceptions of Borges examined and contested in the present work include his perceived social, political and intellectual elitism; his perceived positioning as a writer detached from Argentina's socio-political reality; the interpretation of his admiration for English literature as a way of disregarding Argentine culture; and finally the image of the author as a perpetual old blind sage with no links to popular culture. The study of these images and conceptions is elaborated through the analysis of biographies, photographs, comic strips and the promotion of so-called ‗Borgesian' spaces in the city of Buenos Aires. These are studied in relation to the socio-political, historical and cultural contexts in which they were produced.This study is based on the view that the intertwined processes of the construction of the icon and of identity formation are fluid and in constant development. In this way, the thesis does not seek to reveal an essence of Borges; it aims to uncover the complexity of the operations that constitute the definition of Argentine cultural identity through Borges, focusing on the process rather than on an end result.
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKarl Posso (Supervisor) & Chris Perriam (Supervisor)


  • Argentina
  • icon
  • Jorge Luis Borges

Cite this