UNDER AN OPEN SKY by William Cronon


Rethinking America's Western Past
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 Thirteen wide-ranging essays form an introduction to the cutting edge of western scholarship in this Festschrift to Yale historian Howard Roberts Lamar, who also contributes a chapter. The editors, themselves Yale-affiliated, attempt in their introductory remarks to provide a road map to the concerns and orientation of a new generation of historians by describing the settlement of the West in terms of its transition from frontier to region. Defining the parameters of the transition as ``species shifting'' (when ecological changes occur as Old World organisms- -e.g., rats, bluegrass--are introduced), ``market making,'' ``land taking,'' ``boundary setting,'' ``state forming,'' and ``self shaping,'' the writers view the transformation as far more complex and dynamic than allowed in older interpretations of ``westering,'' such as that of 19th-century historian Frederick Jackson Turner. Each editor offers an essay demonstrating the new formulation: Cronon analyzes the Kennecott Copper Company's 30-year presence in Alaska, which ended in 1938; Miles details the significance of the Cherokee Advocate, a Cherokee-language newspaper published intermittently over more than 60 years until 1906; Gitlin tackles the Mississippi Valley ``frontier'' as the site of several competing European traditions, including Spanish, French, and Anglo-American. Other essays cover equally diverse subjects, from Patricia Nelson Limerick's (Univ. of Colorado/Boulder) assessment of western myth and symbol in Turner, Henry Nash Smith, and others to Martha A. Sandweiss's (Mead Art Museum/Amherst) study of western art and visual images captured by 19th-century photographer Timothy O'Sullivan and his peers. An articulate and provocative collection--with something for lovers of western facts and figures, as well as for the more theoretically inclined. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 9th, 1992
ISBN: 0-393-02993-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1992


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