Marriage, Violence and the Nation in the American Literary West

Overview

William R. Handley examines literary interpretations of the Western American past. Handley asserts that although recent scholarship presents a narrative that counters optimistic frontier individualism by focusing on the victims of conquest, twentieth-century American fiction tells of intra-ethnic violence, involving marriages and families. He examines historiography and writing by Zane Grey, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner and Joan Didion among others.

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Overview

William R. Handley examines literary interpretations of the Western American past. Handley asserts that although recent scholarship presents a narrative that counters optimistic frontier individualism by focusing on the victims of conquest, twentieth-century American fiction tells of intra-ethnic violence, involving marriages and families. He examines historiography and writing by Zane Grey, Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner and Joan Didion among others.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With this fine book, William R. Handley joins ranks with a bright new generation of scholars who are bringing notable breadth, critical perspicacity, and theoretical sophistication to the study of western literature. His bold and often brilliant book succeeds because its explorations range so far afield and because it achieves such lucidity in the midst of the ambiguous and unfamiliar." Western American Literature

"He [Handley] shows that much of the brutality involved intra-ethnic or domestic violence, which novelists depicted as a product of a frontier society floundering for stability once the threat from Indians and other enemies waned." The Chronicle of Higher Education

"Focused by necessity on the ambiguous legacy of Frederick Turner's frontier thesis and deliberately crossing borders between literary criticism and historiography, this book makes a major contribution to the literature on western American cultural studies. Highly recommended." Choice

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Product Details

Meet the Author

William R. Handley is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Southern California. His articles have appeared in Arizona Quarterly, Contemporary Literature and Twentieth Century Literature.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Western unions; 2. Turner's rhetorical frontier; 3. Marrying for race and nation: Wister's omniscience and omissions; 4. Polygamy and empire: Grey's distinctions; 5. Unwedded West: Cather's divides; 6. Accident and destiny: Fitzgerald's fantastic geography; 7. Promises and betrayals: Joan Didion and Wallace Stegner; Afterword; Notes; Index.

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