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True West: Authenticity and the American West

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Lincoln 2007 Softcover Postwestern Horizons Series. 372 pages. Softcover. Brand new book. AMERICAN WEST. In no other region of the United States has the notion of authenticity ... played such an important yet elusive role as it has in the West. Though pervasive in literature, popular culture, and history, assumptions about western authenticity have not received adequate critical attention. Given the ongoing economic and social transformations in this vast region, the persistent nostalgia and desire for the "real" authentic West suggest regional and national identities at odds with themselves. True West explores the concept of authenticity as it is used to invent, test, advertise, and read the West. The fifteen essays collected here apply contemporary critical and cultural theory to western literary history, Native American literature and identities, the visual West, and the imagining of place. Ranging geographically from the Canadian Prairies to Buena Park's Entertainment Corridor in Southern California, and Read more Show Less

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Overview

In no other region of the United States has the notion of authenticity played such an important yet elusive role as it has in the West. Though pervasive in literature, popular culture, and history, assumptions about western authenticity have not received adequate critical attention. Given the ongoing economic and social transformations in this vast region, the persistent nostalgia and desire for the “real” authentic West suggest regional and national identities at odds with themselves. True West explores the concept of authenticity as it is used to invent, test, advertise, and read the West.

The fifteen essays collected here apply contemporary critical and cultural theory to western literary history, Native American literature and identities, the visual West, and the imagining of place. Ranging geographically from the Canadian Prairies to Buena Park’s Entertainment Corridor in Southern California, and chronologically from early tourist narratives to contemporary environmental writing, True West challenges many assumptions we make about western writing and opens the door to an important new chapter in western literary history and cultural criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

Great Plains Quarterly

“The fifteen essays in this outstanding collection clarify how authenticity has functioned in cultural and literary settings. Instead of simply distinguishing the ‘fake’ from the ‘authentic,’ they explore the nature and consequences of quests for and claims to authenticity. Readers interested in the Great Plains will find rewarding essays on literature, environment, and the uses of American Indian history. . . . Thematically tight and imaginatively broad, a testament to the skill and vision of its editors. An extensive bibliography enhances its usefulness for scholars.”—Ellen Baker, Great Plains Quarterly

— Ellen Baker

Los Angeles Times Book Review

True West reminds us that the relentless search for authenticity is a quest for something that is elusive—and perhaps wholly illusory.”—Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review

— Jonathan Kirsch

Western American Literature

True West is a herald of change in the air—a promise of a regenerated critical assault on literature that may be western but is also among the finest being produced in English today, and to be valued for that as much or more than for its regional provenance.”—Lee Clark Mitchell, Western American Literature

— Lee Clark Mitchell

Western American Literature - Lee Clark Mitchell
True West is a herald of change in the air—a promise of a regenerated critical assault on literature that may be western but is also among the finest being produced in English today, and to be valued for that as much or more than for its regional provenance.”—Lee Clark Mitchell, Western American Literature
Los Angeles Times Book Review - Jonathan Kirsch
True West reminds us that the relentless search for authenticity is a quest for something that is elusive—and perhaps wholly illusory.”—Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Great Plains Quarterly - Ellen Baker
“The fifteen essays in this outstanding collection clarify how authenticity has functioned in cultural and literary settings. Instead of simply distinguishing the ‘fake’ from the ‘authentic,’ they explore the nature and consequences of quests for and claims to authenticity. Readers interested in the Great Plains will find rewarding essays on literature, environment, and the uses of American Indian history. . . . Thematically tight and imaginatively broad, a testament to the skill and vision of its editors. An extensive bibliography enhances its usefulness for scholars.”—Ellen Baker, Great Plains Quarterly
Montana: The Magazine of Western History

“Building on the work of Patricia Nelson Limerick and others who have wrestled with the demon unleashed by Turner, [Lewis] and Handley have compiled an interesting olio of essays devoted to the compelling issue of ‘authenticity’ as a specific intellectual problem for those same historians, writers, and artists.”—Aaron Parrett, Montana: The Magazine of Western History

— Aaron Parrett

Western Historical Quarterly - Ann Ronald
“Well worth reading. I learned a lot from the breadth and depth of the individual essays, and now—as I think about contemporary politics—I find myself rethinking the ways I glibly balance representation and reality. . . . Indeed, I find True West among the most provocative collections I recently have read.”—Ann Ronald, Western Historical Quarterly
Montana: The Magazine of Western History - Aaron Parrett
“Building on the work of Patricia Nelson Limerick and others who have wrestled with the demon unleashed by Turner, [Lewis] and Handley have compiled an interesting olio of essays devoted to the compelling issue of ‘authenticity’ as a specific intellectual problem for those same historians, writers, and artists.”—Aaron Parrett, Montana: The Magazine of Western History
Journal of Arizona History - Kevin Britz
“At last, William Handley and Nathaniel Lewis have tackled the slippery slope of what authenticity means to the West. . . . Handley and Lewis’s collection of essays is an excellent first work in the daunting task of exploring the deep interweaving between authenticity and our frontier origins. It is a welcome volume for literary studies and culture studies on the intermountain West.”—Kevin Britz, Journal of Arizona History
Los Angeles Times
"[E]ditors William R. Handley and Nathaniel Lewis [write an] astute introduction to this new collection of essays. . . . At the core of True West is a cluster of essays on the troubled encounters between those who fancied themselves to be the discoverers of the West and those who were already there. Here, too, the touchstone is the search for nuggets of authenticity amid the claptrap of propaganda, pop culture and pseudo-history. . . . [A] work of highly disciplined scholarship. . . . Again and again, True West reminds us that the relentless search for authenticity is a quest for something that is elusive—and perhaps wholly illusory."—Los Angeles Times
Western Historical Quarterly

“Well worth reading. I learned a lot from the breadth and depth of the individual essays, and now—as I think about contemporary politics—I find myself rethinking the ways I glibly balance representation and reality. . . . Indeed, I find True West among the most provocative collections I recently have read.”—Ann Ronald, Western Historical Quarterly

— Ann Ronald

Choice
"Essayists include some well-established writers and critics. . . . [T]his title opens important new territory."—Choice
Montana: The Magazine of Western History
"Building on the work of Patricia Nelson Limerick and others who have wrestled with the demon unleashed by Turner, [Lewis] and Handley have compiled an interesting olio of essays devoted to the compelling issue of 'authenticity' as a specific intellectual problem for those same historians, writers, and artists."

— Aaron Parrett, Montana: The Magazine of Western History

Journal of Arizona History

“At last, William Handley and Nathaniel Lewis have tackled the slippery slope of what authenticity means to the West. . . . Handley and Lewis’s collection of essays is an excellent first work in the daunting task of exploring the deep interweaving between authenticity and our frontier origins. It is a welcome volume for literary studies and culture studies on the intermountain West.”—Kevin Britz, Journal of Arizona History

— Kevin Britz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803259768
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • Series: Postwestern Horizons Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

William R. Handley is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Marriage, Violence, and Nation in the American Literary West. Nathaniel Lewis is an associate professor of English at Saint Michael’s College and the author of Unsettling the Literary West: Authenticity and Authorship (Nebraska 2003).
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Truth or consequences : projecting authenticity in the 1830s 21
2 Cowgirls and sage hens : Henry Adams's Western Fantasy 38
3 Getting the real story : implications of the demand for authenticity in writings from the Canadian West 56
4 Willa Gather : "The West authentic," the West divided 72
5 Simulations of authenticity : imagined Indians and sacred landscape from new age to nature writing 97
6 "Real Indian art" : Charles Eastman's search for an authenticating culture concept 117
7 The only real Indians are western ones : authenticity, regionalism, and Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, or Sylvester Long 140
8 The authenticity game : "getting real" in contemporary American Indian literature 155
9 Edward Curtis : pictorialist and ethnographic adventurist 179
10 Animal calling/calling animal : threshold space in Frederic Remington's coming to the call 194
11 "Cameras and photographs were not permitted in the camps" : photographic documentation and distortion in Japanese American internment narratives 222
12 Authenticity, occupancy, and credibility : Rick Bass and the rhetoric of protecting place 257
13 Authoring an authentic place : environmental and literary Stewardship in Stegner and Kittredge 275
14 "Genealogy is in our blood" : Terry Tempest Williams and the redemption of "native" Mormonism 290
15 Authentic re-creations : ideology, practice, and regional history along Buena Park's entertainment corridor 304
Bibliography 329
Contributors 353
Index 357
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