In this book, Goodrich seeks to demonstrate the canonization of Domingo Fausto Sarmiento’s Facundo, civilización o barbarie (1845) as a foundational text of Argentine identity and “how national identity can be observed from the vantage point of a classic and its readings” (p. 5). To achieve this, the author demonstrates “Foucauldian discontinuities” in the reception of Facundo and the national constructs mirrored in this reception. Specifically, Goodrich addresses reaction to the text at the time of its initial feuilleton publication, Valentín Alsina’s “Notes” (1846) to Sarmiento, Juan Bautista Alberdi’s polemic with Sarmiento (from 1853 to the 1880s), French and American translations of the work (1846 and 1865), the so-called canonization of Facundo by the Generation of 1880, and the place of Sarmiento and his book in the national mythos of the 1890s and beyond.

Together with José Hernández’s Martín Fierro, Facundo is unquestionably one of Argentina’s seminal texts, and much has been written on the polarization of national identity embodied in these two works. What makes Goodrich’s book so greatly valuable and interesting is its documentation of various stages of Facundo’s and Sarmiento’s trajectories toward becoming national icons, illustrating both the praise and attack directed at this still polemical work. Facundo and the Construction of Argentine Culture is neither a history of Argentina nor truly a history of Facundo, for it encompasses much more than the specific role of Sarmiento’s text. Instead, Goodrich addresses the construction of Argentine national identity at various moments in the country’s history through detailed discussions of key texts and their corresponding circumstances.

The author is strongest when she closely analyzes the textual mechanisms utilized by Sarmiento and his detractors to establish their authority through the written word. Her inclusion of French and English translations and their receptions is especially pertinent in light of her accurate and well-articulated affirmation that “Sarmiento affiliates himself with the [European] forms of representation” of the exotic (p. 90). Perhaps due to her putative audience, the author concentrates her attention on the American reception of Facundo, although she omits reference to the book’s obvious influence on such works as John A. Crow’s The Epic of Latin America (1946). Her discussion becomes less focused when addressing the canonization of Facundo; only in the postscript to chapter 5 does she begin to develop a direct analysis of Facundo’s influence on Lucio Mansilla’s Una excursión a los indios ranqueles (1870) and the latter’s importance in constructing national identity. In chapter 6 she deftly portrays the transformation of Facundo from politico-historical text to literary manifestation of national culture within a society now contrary to Sarmiento’s view of Spain, northern European immigration, and the rural element. Her treatment of Leopoldo Lugones and Ricardo Rojas is informative although marred by her animosity toward “hegemony.” She thus considers Rojas’s acknowledgment of Sarmiento as a “figure of the great nation-forger” (p. 166) to be empty given his general disagreement with Sarmiento’s views. However, the very process of mythification that Goodrich describes supports the simplification of an image for the purpose of aggrandizement.