Vision and Refuge: Essays on the Literature of the Great Plains

Vision and Refuge: Essays on the Literature of the Great Plains

Vision and Refuge: Essays on the Literature of the Great Plains

Vision and Refuge: Essays on the Literature of the Great Plains

Excerpt

The underlying purpose of this collection of essays is to encourage systematic study of a large body of writing--fiction and nonfiction, including letters and journals--that, with few exceptions, has only recently begun to receive scholarly attention. The day of the simple answer is long past, but one reason for the late-blooming respectability of western American literature is inherent in American literary history. In the mid-nineteenth century, although natives of the settlements on the banks of the Hudson, the Schuylkill, and the Charles were aware of American expansion westward, the cultural pundits among them assumed that intellectual pursuits could not also migrate to the banks of the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Platte. In their view the arts in America, particularly the literary art, did not travel.

The idea persisted through subsequent decades. Mari Sandoz's letters of the 1930s and '40s are replete with references to the apathetic attitudes of eastern publishers toward, and their ignorance of, life in whatever period in the stretch of land between the Missouri and the Rockies. In his recent study of western American literature, John R. Milton notes that as recently as 1950 "to ask for full recognition of the western novel (in the academic community) was considered heresy." He observes further that of the fourteen writers to . . .

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