One West, Two Myths II: Essays on Comparison

One West, Two Myths II: Essays on Comparison

One West, Two Myths II: Essays on Comparison

One West, Two Myths II: Essays on Comparison

Synopsis

What comes to mind when we think of the Old West? Often, our conceptions are accompanied by as much mythology and mystique as fact or truth. What are the differences in how the Canadian and American Wests are perceived? Did they develop differently or are they just perceived differently? How do our conceptions influence our perceptions? A companion volume to One West, Two Myths: A Comparative Reader, this collection presents scholarly views on the comparison of the Canadian and American Wests and the various methodologies involved. Contributors include literature specialists, scholars of popular culture, art historians, and political, social, and intellectual historians, demonstrating the interdisciplinary nature of this area of study.

Excerpt

C.L. Higham, Davidson College

Robert Thacker, St. Lawrence University

In perhaps the most quoted passage in his oft-quoted Wolf Willow (1962), Wallace Stegner wrote that “The 49th parallel ran directly through my childhood, dividing me in two.” As one of us has occasion to say, below, and David Williams asserts here as well, Stegner’s book occupies a unique position in understanding the similarities and differences shared by the Canadian and United States western regions as historical and cultural spaces. An unusual book in that it marries history, memoir, and fiction between one set of covers, Wolf Willow is all the more unusual in actually straddling the Canada-U.S. border as it runs from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. That is, Wolf Willow, like Stegner himself, is divided in two by virtue of its dual appreciation, its parallel understanding, of Western culture as found in Canada along with its appreciation of the Western culture found in the United States – each similar to, yet different from, the other. That border is a fact, certainly, but it is also culturally something of a fiction – drawn in 1818 to divide the Hudson’s Bay and Missouri/Mississippi watersheds, the border is both an impediment (witness the ongoing crisis in the cattle industry) and an artificial division between similar Western cultures and landscapes.

This volume, which first appeared as a special issue of The American Review of Canadian Studies, was born of much the same impulse as Wolf Willow. It avowedly intends to set the histories, myths, and cultures of the two northern North American Wests side by side for purposes of comparison, discernment of differences, and mutual illumination. As is often the case in the academy, this volume derives from a thematically defined conference. But ours is unusual in . . .

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