- Paperback: 864 pages
- Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; 21809th edition (April 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0806130318
- ISBN-13: 978-0806130316
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gunfighter Nation: Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America, The 21809th Edition
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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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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.
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.