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Frontier Mythology and Symbolism
The American West: The Invention of a Myth by "Americans have chosen to invest one small part of their history, the settlement of the western wilderness, with extraordinary significance. The lost frontier of the 1800s remains not merely a source of excitement and romance but of inspiration, because it is seen as providing a set of unique and imperishable core-values: individualism, self-reliance, and a pristine sense of right and wrong. As a construct of the imagination, our creation of the West is exceptional. Since this construct has little to do with history, David Murdoch argues that our beliefs about the West amount to a modern functional myth." "In addition to presenting a sustained analysis of how and why the myth originated, Murdoch demonstrates that the myth was invented, for the most part deliberately, and then outgrew the purposes of its inventors." "The American West answers the questions that have too often been either begged or ignored. Why should the West become the focus for myth in the first place, and why, given the long process of western settlement, is the cattleman's West so central and the cowboy, of all prototypes, the mythic hero? And why should the myth have retained its potency up to the last decade of the twentieth century?"--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Call Number: Available for request via PALShare and ILL
Publication Date: 2001-08-01
Hunger for the Wild: America's obsession with the untamed West by Just what was so wild about the Wild West? Americans have had an enduring yet ambivalent obsession with the West as both a place and a state of mind. Now one of the most knowing observers of the Western scene offers a monumental cultural and historical analysis of how ideas of wildness have shaped the ways Euro-Americans have perceived, reacted to, and acted upon the West for nearly five hundred years. Bringing the sensibility of a poet to a sweeping discussion of place, Michael L. Johnson considers how that obsession originated, how it has determined attitudes toward and activities in the West, and how it has changed over the centuries. Investigating views of Western wildness from pre-European times until the present, Johnson tells how explorers and settlers bent on exploiting the West brought with them Old World ideas, full of muddled and even bizarre contradictions, that have defined the region in its most fundamental aspects. And he shows how those contradictory ideas were woven into an ambivalent ideology of conquest that has given us today's degraded wilderness areas, overtaxed water supplies, and sprawling suburbs. Brimming with word-play, personal anecdotes, and telling vignettes, Hunger for the Wild provocatively addresses a cornucopia of Western personalities, phenomena, and events. Invoking a vast array of writers and thinkers-from Claude Lvi-Strauss to Black Elk to Richard Etulain-Johnson casts his critical eye on conquistadors and cowboys and revisits myths of Noble Savage and "red devil" alike. His kaleidoscopic text examines Dust Bowl woes and Wild West shows, and whether contemplating the Disneyfied frontier or the Ralphlaurenized range, he takes readers on an intellectual romp through the wilds of the contemporary West, with its UFO fanatics and postregional cowgirls. Emphasizing his call for seeing the West as "a place of roots as well as routes," Johnson's tour de force marks a major contribution to the deeper history of the region and points toward a more sustainable West for the future. It should interest not only Western historians but also art and film buffs, ecocritics, cross-cultural specialists, and rodeo fans--anyone fascinated by the wild, Western-style.
Call Number: Available for request via PALShare and ILL
Publication Date: 2007-03-14
American West: competing visions by The American West used to be a story of gunfights, glory, wagon trails, and linear progress. Historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner and Hollywood movies such as Stagecoach (1939) and Shane (1953) cast the trans-Mississippi region as a frontier of epic proportions where 'savagery' met 'civilization' and boys became men.During the late 1980s, this old way of seeing the West came under heavy fire. Scholars such as Patricia Nelson Limerick and Richard White forged a fresh story of the region, a new vision of the West, based around the conquest of peoples and landscapes.This book explores the bipolar world of Turner's Old West and Limerick's New West and reveals the values and ambiguities associated with both historical traditions. Sections on Lewis and Clark, the frontier and the cowboy sit alongside work on Indian genocide and women's trail diaries. Images of the region as seen through the arcade Western, Hollywood film and Disney theme parks confirm the West as a symbolic and contested landscape.Tapping into popular fascination with the Cowboy, Hollywood movies, the Indian Wars, and Custer's Last Stand, the authors show the reader how to deconstruct the imagery and reality surrounding Western history.Key Features*Uses popular subjects (the Cowboy, Hollywood westerns, the Indian Wars, and Custer's Last Stand) to enliven the text*Includes 13 b+w illustrations*Interdisciplinary approach covers film, literature, art and historical artefacts
Call Number: Available as an ebook
Publication Date: 2009-01-01
Virgin Land: the American West as symbol and myth by The spell that the West has always exercised on the American people had its most intense impact on American literature and thought during the nineteenth century. Henry Nash Smith shows, with vast comprehension, the influence of the nineteenth-century West in all its variety and strength, in special relation to social, economic, cultural, and political forces. He traces the myths and symbols of the Westward movement such as the general notion of a Westward-moving Course of Empire, the Wild Western hero, the virtuous yeoman-farmer-in such varied nineteenth-century writings as Leaves of Grass, the great corpus of Dime Novels, and most notably, Frederick Jackson Turner's The Frontier in American History. Moreover, he synthesizes the imaginative expression of Western myths and symbols in literature with their role in contemporary politics, economics, and society, embodied in such forms as the idea of Manifest Destiny, the conflict in the American mind between idealizations of primitivism on the one hand and of progress and civilization on the other, the Homestead Act of 1862, and public-land policy after the Civil War. The myths of the American West that found their expression in nineteenth-century words and deeds remain a part of every American's heritage, and Smith, with his insight into their power and significance, makes possible a critical appreciation of that heritage.
Call Number: F591 .S5
Publication Date: 1971-10-01