Gunfighter Nation: The Frontier Myth in 20th Century America by Richard Slotkin, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Gunfighter Nation: The Frontier Myth in 20th Century America

Gunfighter Nation: The Frontier Myth in 20th Century America

by Richard Slotkin
     
 
The concluding volume of Richard Slotkin's highly acclaimed trilogy draws on a wide range of sources to examine the pervasive influence of Wild West myths on American culture and politics.

Overview

The concluding volume of Richard Slotkin's highly acclaimed trilogy draws on a wide range of sources to examine the pervasive influence of Wild West myths on American culture and politics.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The myth of the Western frontier--which assumes that whites' conquest of Native Americans and the taming of the wilderness were preordained means to a progressive, civilized society--is embedded in our national psyche. U.S. troops called Vietnam ``Indian country.'' President John Kennedy invoked ``New Frontier'' symbolism to seek support for counterinsurgency abroad. In an absorbing, valuable, scholarly study, Slotkin, director of American studies at Wesleyan University, traces the pervasiveness of frontier mythology in American consciousness from 1890 to the present. Theodore Roosevelt's ``progressive'' version of the frontier myth was used to justify conquest of the Philippines and the emergence of a new managerial class. Dime novels and detective stories adapted the myth to portray gallant heroes repressing strikers, immigrants and dissidents. Completing a trilogy begun with Regeneration Through Violence and The Fatal Environment , Slotkin unmasks frontier mythmaking in novels and Hollywood movies. The myth's emphasis on use of force over social solutions has had a destructive impact, he shows, on our handling of urban violence, racial conflict and the ``drug war.'' (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
Concluding a trilogy that began with Regeneration Through Violence (1973) and The Fatal Environment (1985), Slotkin (English/Wesleyan Univ.) now offers a subtle and wide-ranging examination how America's fascination with the frontier has affected its culture and politics in this century. As used by Slotkin, "myth" means not a falsehood but a story derived from history that expresses a people's ideology. Beginning with Frederick Jackson Turner's landmark 1893 address on the closing of the frontier, Slotkin relates how Americans have used the unusually resonant myth of the West to explain ongoing issues of the present. Two works that helped establish the myth were Theodore Roosevelt's history The Winning of the West and Owen Wister's novel The Virginian, which pictured an Anglo-Saxon managerial elite toughened by exposure to remorseless "savage wars" against enemies, red-skinned and otherwise. Slotkin skillfully traces how the myth was used against the upstart labor movement, anti-imperialists, immigrants, and blacks. Although such media or genres as Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, the dime-stock novel, and the formula fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Zane Grey, and Edgar Rice Burroughs are explored here, much of the book is given over to a searching analysis of crucial western films like Stagecoach, Shane, The Searchers, Vera Cruz, and The Wild Bunch. Allowing for Slotkin's occasional lapses into academese, overemphasis of the western's influence (e.g., the WW II combat film is interpreted in light of "the savage war," as if wars by their nature weren't), and oddly perfunctory nod to recent works such as Lonesome Dove and Dances With Wolves, the reader will get a provocative summary of howAmericans from JFK on the left to Ronald Reagan on the right have exploited the power of the myth of the West. Intellectual history at its most stimulating—teeming with insights into American violence, politics, class, and race.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060975753
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/01/1993
Pages:
864

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