Professor Vidal, who taught at the University of Minnesota from 1972 until his retirement in 2003, is widely known as an innovative, original, and productive scholar in the field of Latin American studies. The collective impact of his work and influence opened up new fields of intellectual inquiry to which he contributed through his high intellectual standards, independent spirit of inquiry, and unwavering commitment to human rights.
In the 1980s, Professor Vidal undertook a line of research that continued to expand the canon of literary studies and at the same time responded to the tragic reality of Chile, Argentina, and neighboring countries. He began to analyze subaltern or marginal literatures, and questions of authoritarian and military discourse, as they emerged and were answered in plays, songs, films, and other modes of popular culture, as well as in the practices which constitute and transform everyday life. This research resulted in the publication of several books, among them Dar la vida por la vida: la Agrupación de Familiares de Dentenidos Desaparecidos [A Life for a Life: The Families of the “Disappeared”] (1982), El movimiento contra la tortura “Sebastián Acevedo”: Derechos humanos y la producción de símbolos nacionales bajo el fascismo chileno [The “Sebastián Acevedo” Movement against Torture: Human Rights and the Production of National Symbols under Chilean Fascism] (1986, with an updated version published by Mosquito Editores in Chile in 1996).
Professor Vidal linked, in a profoundly humanistic way, the practice of literary criticism with the defense of human rights. He will be greatly missed by the academic community.