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Everyday Reading

Print Culture and Collective Identity in the Rio de la Plata, 1780-1910

William Garrett Acree Jr.

Publication Year: 2011

Starting in the late nineteenth century, the region of South America known as the Río de la Plata (containing modern-day Uruguay and Argentina) boasted the highest literacy rates in Latin America. In Everyday Reading, William Acree explores the history, events, and culture that gave rise to the region’s remarkable progress. With a specific focus on its print culture, in the form of newspapers, political advertisements and documents, schoolbooks, and even stamps and currency, Acree creates a portrait of a literary culture that permeated every aspect of life. Everyday Reading argues that the introduction of the printing press into the Río de la Plata in the 1780s hastened the collapse of Spanish imperial control and played a major role in the transition to independence some thirty years later. After independence, print culture nurtured a new identity and helped sustain the region through the tumult of civil war in the mid-1800s. Acree concludes by examining the role of reading in formal education, which had grown exponentially by the early twentieth century as schoolchildren were taught to fulfill traditional roles in society. Ultimately, Everyday Reading humanizes literary culture, demonstrating its unrecognized and unexpected influence in everyday lives.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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List of Figures

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pp. vii-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

My mother is from the Mississippi Delta and my father was born in northern Florida. As my parents, they had little idea that their first son would end up spending so much time in the distant Río de la Plata, much less write a book about the region. But they and many others have guided me along the way, and my few words here demonstrate only a fraction of my gratitude. ...

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pp. 1-14

In these words from his 1895 textbook, addressed to the “niño argentino” (Argentine child), Eizaguirre draws our attention to one of the crucial forces behind the formation of collective identity: print.1 Eizaguirre promises to satisfy the young reader’s curiosity about the meaning of patria, or the fatherland. In turn, he humbly requests his audience’s attention “so that ...

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1. Words, Wars, and Public Celebrations: The Emergence of Rioplatense Print Culture (1780-1830)

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pp. 15-42

By 6 December 1779, the deal had been sealed. After sitting inactive for more than a dozen years in the dark, dank basement of the University of Córdoba, the first and only printing press of the Cordoban Jesuits was ready to make the journey over to Buenos Aires. When the Spanish crown ordered the expulsion of Jesuits from Spanish America in 1767, the press ...

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2. Words, Wars, and Gauchos: Print Culture and Cattle Civilization (1830-1870)

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pp. 43-84

Like the strands of a good lasso, Rioplatense print culture and cattle civilization are braided together during the second key moment in the development of our story, spanning from the end of the wars of independence around 1830 roughly up to 1870.1 The 1820s through the early 1860s were by far the most profitable years for the estancieros (owners of large estates) ...

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3. Sowers of Alphabets (1870-1910)

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pp. 85-120

With the advent of public primary education around 1880, the relationship between print, the state, and the public sphere would change entirely. Education opened the gateway to much greater public interaction with print culture. After all, primary education, by far more important than secondary education, was now compulsory, and the numbers of students attending ...

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4. Lessons for a Nation (1880-1910)

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pp. 121-164

In the naturalist W. H. Hudson’s novel The Purple Land, the self-styled explorer Richard Lamb traversed the rural interior of Uruguay during the early 1870s. One of the many adventures Lamb experienced in The Purple Land found him resting in a wooded area one afternoon before continuing his journey on horseback toward Montevideo. His peaceful nap was...

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Epilogue: Spreading the Word and Image (1880-1910)

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pp. 165-194

On a spring morning in October 2005, I was faced with a daunting task. I had traveled to Salto, Uruguay, along the country’s western edge, to meet with children at an elementary school on the outskirts of town. Precariously constructed houses lined the dirt roads, and nestled among them was La Amarilla (The Yellow School), as it was called. It brimmed with life ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 195-196


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pp. 197-214


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pp. 215-238


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pp. 239-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780826517913
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826517890

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 772692276
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Everyday Reading

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Printing -- Social aspects -- Rio de la Plata Region (Argentina and Uruguay) -- History.
  • National characteristics, Argentine, in literature.
  • Books and reading -- Social aspects -- Rio de la Plata Region (Argentina and Uruguay) -- History.
  • Publishers and publishing -- Social aspects -- Rio de la Plata Region (Argentina and Uruguay) -- History.
  • Rio de la Plata Region (Argentina and Uruguay) -- Intellectual life.
  • Book industries and trade -- Social aspects -- Rio de la Plata Region (Argentina and Uruguay) -- History.
  • National characteristics, Uruguayan, in literature.
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