American West: Competing Visions

American West: Competing Visions

American West: Competing Visions

American West: Competing Visions

Synopsis

This introduction to the history of the American West seeks to move beyond the polarised views of Frederick Jackson Turner's Old West (the Frontier, civilisation and savagery, national progress, gunfights, glory and individual fortitude) and Patricia Nelson Limerick and Richard White's New West (the conquest of peoples and landscapes, and genocide). Through a series of thematic chapters it explores the truths, fallacies and contradictions tied up in these historical traditions and offers a new, more balanced approach to viewing the Western past. Readers will acquire an understanding of the key themes and debates in Western history as well as an awareness of competing academic discourses. Tapping into popular fascination with the Cowboy, Hollywood movies, the Indian Wars, and Custer's Last Stand, the authors show the student how to deconstruct the imagery and reality surrounding Western history. The main focus is on social and environmental history, though political, economic and religious factors are also introduced as appropriate. The authors take an interdisciplinary approach, employing film, literature and art as well as historical artefacts to present a colourful depiction of life in the West. Key Features:
• A general, lively and provocative introduction to the history of the American West
• An intellectual challenge to existing approaches and ideas about the West
• A summary of the latest key arguments about the meaning of the West
• Includes 10 b+w illustrations and numerous maps

Excerpt

Automobiles flash past giant wind farms in the Californian desert. Shining white guardians of new technology in the American West, the wind turbines turn kinetic energy into state electricity. Their airplanelike propellers revolve repeatedly, as if filtering the air adjacent to the highway, blasting aside the smog with clean ions. the cars and trucks meanwhile continue their way along 29 Palms Highway to Joshua Tree National Park, where the sunny palms turn to wizened trees and a desert wilderness beckons. Some vehicles turn off north of the small residential stretch of Yucca Valley into the desert hills, to visit Pioneertown, an historic 'ghost town' of wood cabins. the main street boasts a mine, a saloon, a jail and a motel. Cowboys and cowgirls wander its dusty confines. Stars mark the midnight sky, tumbleweed blows along the dirt street. Thanks to a lightning strike, a brush fire nearly engulfed Pioneertown in 2006, but most of this Old West remnant survives.

Pioneertown is a figment of imagination, a monument to fakery. Built in 1946 by a group of Hollywood investors that included actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, the ramshackle nature of the buildings and the rustic decor of their interiors represented a deliberate design aesthetic. Pioneertown was constructed as a film set. During the 1940s and 1950s, a number of television series were shot on location here, including The Cisco Kid (1950) starring Duncan Renaldo and Annie Oakley (1954) with Gail Davis. 'Singing cowboy' Gene Autry retained a room at the Pioneertown Motel. the frontier facades hid a range of conspicuously modern activities effectively, including a bowling alley where Roy Rogers took first aim at the pins and one cabin which served as an ice-cream parlour. With the demise of the Hollywood Western in the 1970s, Pioneertown scraped by as a tourist attraction and stop-off on the way to Las Vegas and the Mojave. Originally built . . .

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