As the title and subtitle of the book indicate, it has a double aim. Its main concern is to display and state the advantages of a new methodological approach based on discourse analysis. As a way of testing the new method, there follows a brief though penetrating and well-documented study on the political writings of Mariano Moreno, one of the key figures in the process of Argentine independence. Ultimately, the book relies more on theoretical explorations than on historical researches.
The author, Noemí Goldman, received her doctorate at the University of Paris in 1984, and the text on Moreno included in this book is a part of her thesis. Presently she is a professor at the University of Buenos Aires, but she keeps close links with the group of French historians who are striving to establish history of discourse as a new academic discipline. This new field of historical research draws its inspirations from many different sources, including the history of mentalities, psychoanalysis, linguistics, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, and especially Michel Foucault.
Historians of discourse take language not as an instrument to communicate meanings but as the actual basis from which the production, circulation, and transformation of meanings are regulated and thus controlled. In this sense, political domination is not obtained through discourse but is rather made out of discourse. In her studies on the political writings of Mariano Moreno, Goldman focuses on the complex semantic networks he created in his texts, loaded with new ideological connotations, which subverted the official language of colonial bureaucrats and challenged the criollo elite as well. She therefore dismisses previous simplified pictures of Moreno by showing his subtle appropriation of expressions from Rousseau and the Jacobins in order to cast a radical perspective on the insurrectional movement of independence.
Despite its intrinsic interest and achievements, Professor Goldman’s work on the discourse of Moreno, based essentially on textual analysis of a single author and supported by no other research, in the end seems partial and inconclusive. Although it demonstrates the potential qualities of history of discourse, it also illustrates some of its insufficiencies.