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Gunfighter Nation: Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America, The Paperback – April 15, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0806130316 ISBN-10: 0806130318

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Gunfighter Nation: Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America, The + Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 + The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (April 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806130318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806130316
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gunfighter Nation concludes Richard Slotkin's three-volume study, which began in 1973 with the publication of Regeneration Through Violence, of the significance of the frontier in the American imagination. Looking primarily at pulp novels and films, Slotkin takes a painstakingly thorough look at the relationship between imagery of the West in industrial mass culture and U.S. foreign policy during the 20th century. Specifically, he looks at how the previous century's "frontier aristocrat" served as the model diplomat for America's agenda of economic imperialism from the Spanish American War to the "police action" in Vietnam.

As the U.S. gained international stature, the archetype of the frontier aristocrat articulated the goals and ideals of the American populace. But Slotkin shows how, as time progressed, the increasing irrelevance of the frontier myth on foreign soil foiled the prowess of the U.S. war machine. At the book's conclusion, in which images of the My Lai Massacre are juxtaposed against the final shootout of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, the contradiction between faith and experience becomes painfully evident. Gunfighter Nation delivers the satisfaction of a historian with the acquired wisdom to address directly the issues that inspired his lifelong work. --John M. Anderson

From Publishers 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."
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
Winner of countless praise, Gunfighter Nation changed the way we view almost all aspects of American history. It is a well-crafted critical work that articulates earlier French theories of common mythologies and their influences on history but frames them in purely American terms.
Viewing the fictional works of Zane Gray, James Fenimore Cooper, the historical work of Teddy Roosevelt and Frederick Jackson Turner, the influence of popular entertainment like Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and the genres of the western film and film noir Slotkin methodically describes the construction of the American frontier myth. He explores how this myth has influenced the personal lives of great figures of American history and subsequently affected all forms of American policy both foreign and domestic.
The book connects the myth of the frontier to common perceptions of race, class and gender and illustrates how integral that myth was in America's attempts to expand into the Caribbean, battle the forces of Communism in Europe and project power into Southeast Asia. There are some particularly interesting sections that deal specifically with how the frontier myth inspired the strategic and tactical mindset of the war in Vietnam.
Without the slightest hyperbole this book is truly revolutionary. Slotkin was one of the first to tell the story of American history through its influence on pop culture and one of the first to show the influences of pop culture on history. His theories of American myth making have become the backbone of almost all work being done in American Studies and this series is among the most commonly cited resources in academic works over many broad fields.
Clearly the source and still the best for any serious (and even amateur) student of American history. Its innumerable accolades are well deserved.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TLR on August 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
A really phenomenal book, especially if you're a film fan with an interest in history and politics. Slotkin analyzes how the Historical West turned into the Mythical West, a process that began in the late 19th century with dime novels and adventure tales, and escalated with the advent of film.

Since the closing of the Western Frontier, popular culture's Mythical West has been the lens through which current events are viewed and interpreted by many Americans. Slotkin examines how the country sees itself in the mirror, how it reinterprets the old mythical archetypes and images during periods of change and crisis: the Spanish-American War and the Philippine insurrection, the rebirth of the KKK, the gangsters and outlaws of the 1920s and 1930s, fighting the Japanese in WWII, changing relations with Native Americans and Mexicans, the counterinsurgencies of the post-war era (particularly Vietnam), and finally the disillusionment and decline that set in by the early 70s. Since that time, the Western genre has struggled and often failed to find a way to maintain its appeal to younger generations as a mythical force.
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By Andi on January 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I get a history lesson every night after work since ma has been reading this. A bit on the scholastic side that she has to look up words...but all too involving and interesting!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thomas White-Hassler on May 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While searching for resources to help me understand the roots of the high violence level, relevant to other developed countries, I came upon Slotkin's three volumes that provide significant insight into how we arrived where we are.
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