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Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 New edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0806132297
ISBN-10: 0806132299
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On the basis of his sweeping 1975 survey of American Colonial and early Republican literature, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860, Richard Slotkin has approached the pop guru status of archetypal excavators such as Joseph Campbell, despite the fact that his work emphasizes the dark undercurrents of American culture. His argument in Regeneration is that, as the British colonists established their own societies in the wilderness, they expressed their regional desires for territorial expansion and self-rule by reinventing their history. Their narratives, according to Slotkin, revolved around frontiersmen who internalized, then disciplined, the "savagery" of their new environments, using their newfound mastery of nature to transform the wilderness into a revitalized civilization. Slotkin begins by examining how narratives of King Philip's War transformed New England from a demon-haunted Puritan enclave to a region where Indian killing represented progress and prosperity. Daniel Boone's paradoxical backwoods mixture of aggression and reflection serves as an icon for the rest of Regeneration, which emphasizes sectional variations of the Indian hunter myth, while analyzing the more "serious" literary endeavors of Cooper, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Melville.

Regeneration reads at times like a noir-ish variation on Frederick Jackson Turner's influential The Frontier in American History, a vision in which genocide, white supremacy, and environmental exploitation are the real engines driving the nation's expansion. At a time when even the bloodiest of war films extols family values in the midst of combat, Slotkin's grim tour of the United States' collective cultural history demands a wide audience. --John M. Anderson END --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Richard Slotkin is Olin Professor of English and Director of American Studies at Wesleyan University. He is the author of Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 and Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of Frontier in Twentieth-Century America, published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 680 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; New edition edition (April 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806132299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806132297
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Slotkin analyzes the popular texts of early American life--"capitivity narratives" of women abducted by Native Americans, dime novels, etc.--to show how early Americans came to rationalize the gap between their religious ideology and the reality of the wilderness they were meant to transform into the "city on the hill." His careful study of the documents seems almost academic at first, and is sometimes rough going, but when I let his argument sink in (as a student in Slotkin's undergraduate class which used this book as its text), it profoundly and permanently transformed the way I saw American culture and history. This book is revelatory for anyone interested in "American Studies," the creation of our national mythology, and in what makes America America.
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Format: Paperback
Regeneration Through Violence is the first volume of a trilogy by historian Richard Slotkin which focuses on the mythology of the Frontier in American History. He originally wrote this book which covers the years 1600-1860 in 1973 and then followed it with the sequels "The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890" in 1985 and "Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America" in 1992. The main thesis of this first volume is that the existence of the western frontier and the Indian shaped an American mythology in which regeneration through violence (including fighting Indians and hunting wildlife) became "the structuring metaphor of the American experience". He connects the myth of regeneration through violence to contemporary problems in American society including crime and exploitation of the environment. To quote from the final chapter:

"This confounding of the figures of the hunter-wastrel and the farmer-cultivator has had disastrous social consequences. It enables us to exploit and lay waste the land as a means of transforming and improving it and converting it into the ideal world of our dreams. It enables us to express our love of the land and its potential by destroying it."

In his final paragraph, he refers to "the warfare between man and nature, between race and race, exalted as a kind of heroic ideal; the piles of wrecked and rusted cars, heaped like Tartar pyramids of death-cracked, weather-browned, rain-rotted skulls, to signify our passage through the land." Wow! I don't know if you'll accept his thesis, but the man can certainly write.

It is important to realize that this book is not a typical history of the period.
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Format: Hardcover
1999 marked an "average year" for North American fixation on violence, sexual imagery, and an added combination of technological paranoia as a result of the new millennium. For the most part, television screens tuned in to the daily media circus showcasing the latest "experts" on youth violence, gang activity, and the Psychic Friends Network. The student shooting at Colorado's Columbine high school, however, gripped the nation and left the "experts" scrambling for explanations, counselors, and an array of gun-control measures.

Of all the propositions these so-called experts put forth, none discussed the historical culture of violence that has become the foundation of our country's consciousness. Instead of real explanations and solutions, we endured Senator Diane Feinstein and other "politicians" anxious to defend their domain at the public dole. Many failed to connect the bullets flying in American classrooms with the bombs dropping on civilians in Kosovo. Indeed, they missed the forest for the trees when instead of searching for the root cause of the problem (the culture of violence), they resorted to simplistic cosmetic trimming (more gun control). Richard Slotkin's monograph on the mythology of the American frontier examines the origins of this "frontier mentality" and the making of our national character.

In Regeneration through Violence, Richard Slotkin argues that the North American frontier mythology is a major force in shaping the national character of the country. By building on the theoretical constructs of Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis," Slotkin argues that the frontier was not so much a "regeneration" of democratic principles as much as it was one of violence.
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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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Format: Paperback
It is very nearly the end of his book before Professor Richard Slotkin justifies the "violence" in his title Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600 - 1860. His final thesis is that the myth that the best Americans are violent is partial at best and has been misused by politicians to justify imperialist adventures from our own western plains to the 1898 war with Spain to Viet-Nam.

Most of the book is about the literary foundations behind the myth of the quintessential American being a hunter who enters a wilderness (the early American forests, the depths of his own dark mind) to endure an initiation of hunting, fishing, captivity, rescues and the "Eucharistic" union of hunter and a prey (the hunted) that is respected, killed and devoured.

Herman Melville's MOBY-DICK was not (like John Filson's Colonel Boone) initially popular. But in time it became "The American National Epic" (p. 538). Slotkin's ultimate conclusion is that there must be something to these intertwined myths of America but they are either inadequate to the real American character or false -- and certainly harmful as guides to behavior.

The search for American myths culminates before 1860 in the deep probings of Henry Thoreau and Herman Melville and the more fervid but less cerebral expressions by Walt Whitman. Thoreau took from Cooper and other myth-embellishers a notion of literary creativity as a bloody seizure of truth held by a foe or by prey.
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