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In Regeneration Through Violence, the first of his trilogy on the mythology of the American West, Richard Slotkin shows how the attitudes and traditions that shape American culture evolved from the social and psychological anxieties of European settlers struggling in a strange new world to claim the land and displace the Native Americans. Using the popular literature of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries-including captivity narratives, the Daniel Boone tales, and the writings of ...
In Regeneration Through Violence, the first of his trilogy on the mythology of the American West, Richard Slotkin shows how the attitudes and traditions that shape American culture evolved from the social and psychological anxieties of European settlers struggling in a strange new world to claim the land and displace the Native Americans. Using the popular literature of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries-including captivity narratives, the Daniel Boone tales, and the writings of Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Melville-Slotkin traces the full development of this myth.
|I||Myth and Literature in a New World||3|
|II||Cannibals and Christians: European vs. American Indian Culture||25|
|III||A Home in the Heart of Darkness: The Origin of the Indian War Narratives (1625-1682)||57|
|IV||Israel in Babylon: The Archetype of the Captivity Narratives (1682-1700)||94|
|V||A Palisade of Language: Captivity Mythology and the Social Crisis (1688-1693)||116|
|VI||The Hunting of the Beast: Initiation or Exorcism? (1675-1725)||146|
|VII||The Search for a Hero and the Problem of the "Natural Man" (1700-1765)||180|
|VIII||A Gallery of Types: The Evolution of Literary Genres and the Image of the American (1755-1785)||223|
|IX||Narrative into Myth: The Emergence of a Hero (1784)||268|
|X||Evolution of the National Hero: Farmer to Hunter to Indian (1784-1855)||313|
|XI||Society and Solitude: The Frontier Myth in Romantic Literature (1795-1825)||369|
|XII||The Fragmented Image: The Boone Myth and Sectional Cultures (1820-1850)||394|
|XIII||Man Without a Cross: The Leatherstocking Myth (1823-1841)||466|
|XIV||A Pyramid of Skulls||517|
Posted March 12, 2008
Richard Slotkin's 1973 REGENERATION THROUGH VIOLENCE is a very good read, even 35 years after publication. Its subtitle is: THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE AMERICAN FRONTIER 1600 - 1860. The book lives up to its titles. First in time came the raw facts and deeds of European migration to North America. Not much later there were writings about what Europeans experienced: narratives and sermons. Those were mainly about 'redskins' from a white perspective. First the New England Indian wars were written down and their meaning probed. Then arose narratives of people, mainly white women, captured by Indians. These captives were often ransomed, sometimes escaped, even killing their captors in some cases, and returned to their families. Culture shock was immense and furnished much fodder for the sermons of the Mather family and others. *** Out of these diverse raw materials myths were developed by American writers, i.e. stories of heroes, their quests, their temptations and their triumphs. Some of these myth-rich heroes were instantly popular: George Washington, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Natty Bumppo the Deerslayer. In other myths, especially the figures in Melville's MOBY-DICK, it much took longer for people to recognize themselves as the Americans. It would be a mistake, Professor Slotkin argues, to identify these myths as literal truth or even academic history. But in oversimplified shorthand, all tackled one question of global interest: what is an American? *** To the earliest New England divines Americans were emigrants who had fled Europe to create the kind of sanctified land God wanted them to live in. There was, alas, one complication: the land was not empty. There were Indians already in place, godless, violent. Their lifestyles were free and very seductive. The New England divines warned their flocks to stay close to the coast, live in communities with churches. To venture into the Indian-filled forests was to enter the heart of darkness and damnation. *** Yet from the earliest times white men and women did enter the wilderness to interact with Indians. Hundreds did so involuntarily, as captives after Indian raids on white settlements. Others went west voluntarily as hunters, farmers, trappers, missionaries and traders. Some rather enjoyed themselves. Indians often seemed to accept whites, especially peaceful, honest, fair-dealing Quakers, more easily by far than whites could deal with Indians. Still, many white captives, when a ransom was offered, refused to return home. *** Over time mythic heroes emerged who lived among Indians, learned from them, and adapted some of their ways to white necessities. Even George Washington was portrayed by Parson Weems as an early student of Indians. But the first bombshell national popular myth was that of Kentucky pioneer Daniel Boone. Not much later came the literary productions of James Fenimore Cooper, especially the five LEATHERSTOCKING tales built around the life and quests of Nathaniel 'Natty' Bumppo. Natty spoke Indian languages, picked and chose among their ways 'he never scalped a dead foe', resisted temptations to marry and have children and found God in the forest. *** Cooper, according to Richard Slotkin, cut through the underbrush when he discovered in the dark wilderness the even darker American soul or subconscious. Better than he, two later writers, Thoreau and Melville, probed the depths of the American psyche. Thoreau found in hunting and killing the source of the poet's creativity. A poet had to reach into his experience and scalp out his verse! *** According to the popular and later myths, America is a synthesis of warring with savages, notably red men and later blacks, being captured and rescued from bestial humans, fishing, hunting and killing. Heroes rescue captive white women. Heroes scornWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.