In his earlier books, Shadows in the Cave (1982) and Phenomenological Hermeneutics and the Study of Literature (1987), Mario Vald's laid the foundation for his phenomenological-hermeneutic approach to literary criticism. With this book he continues the development of his ideas, using his views of literature, cinema, and art to unravel what he calls 'the imaginative configuration of the world, the cultural phenomenon of making sense, poetic sense, of life.'
The book takes the form of a collection of studies dealing with a variety of key issues in literary theory. A central theme is the role of the reader in assigning meaning to written works. Literature is understood in its capacity to make sense of certain basic aspects of human experience, including the quest for order in the universe, personal identity over time, a definition of the self with respect to the other, and a definition of the self as a member of a cultural community. Vald's begins each chapter with a synopsis of leading philosophical and literary-theoretical views on the subject at hand, then presenting and illustrating his own position through a detailed analysis of one or more literary works, primarily by Hispanic and Latin American authors.
This meticulously constructed phenomenological-experiential approach to literature effectively intervenes in a number of major critical controversies. Vald s's project, begun with his earlier works and continued here, has been to rewrite literary history from a cross-cultural perspective mediated by educated readers.