Distinguishing between the physical phenomena of modernization and the rhetorical conditions of modernity, this chapter argues that during the nineteenth century in Spanish America, men and women took advantage of the rhetoric of modernity in order to attach their own, sometimes very different, agendas to discourses about modernity and that they responded to modernity based on their attitudes about gender. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the field of cultural production, the chapter explains the book’s inclusion of multiple texts. It argues that the malleability of the discourses of modernity enables writers to use gender as a staging-ground for ideas about national progress and also to advance arguments about the importance of women in the nation.
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