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The Burden of Modernity: The Rhetoric of Cultural Discourse in Spanish America


This book offers a provocative interpretation of cultural discourse in Spanish America. Alonso argues that Spanish American cultural production constituted itself through commitment to what he calls the "narrative of futurity," that is, the uncompromising adoption of modernity. This commitment fueled a rhetorical crisis that followed the embracing of discourses regarded as "modern" in historical and economic circumstance that are themselves the negation of modernity. Through fresh readings of texts by Sarmiento, Mansilla, Quiroga, Vargos Llosa, Garcia Marquez, and others, Alonso tracks this textual dynamic in works from the nineteenth century to the present.

Alonso, Carlos J. The Burden of Modernity: the Rhetoric of Cultural Discourse in Spanish America. New York: Oxford UP, 1998. Print.

“Alonso’s acute inquiry into nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts leads to an illuminating reflection on Latin America’s problematic relation to modernity. With its strong arguments and subtle readings, this insightful book challenges the reader to rethink Latin American literature and culture in provocative ways.”–Sylvia Molloy, New York University

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements

  1. Modernity as Ideal and Curse
  2. Reading Sarmiento: Once More, With Passion
  3. Strange Fruit: The Discourse of the Cuban Anti-Slavery Novel
  4. Oedipus in the Pampas: Lucio Mansilla’s ‘Una excursion a los indios Ranqueles’
  5. Death and Resurrections: Horacio Quiroga’s Poetics of the Short Story
  6. The Elementary Structure of Kinship: Vargas Llosa’s ‘La tia Julia y el escribidor’
  7. The Closing of the Circle: The End of Modernity in Spanish America

Epilogue: They Have Never Been Modern (Either)


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