UNDER AN OPEN SKY: Rethinking America's Western Past by William; George Miles & Jay Gitlin--Eds. Cronon

UNDER AN OPEN SKY: Rethinking America's Western Past

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KIRKUS REVIEW

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 Limericks (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.

Pub Date: March 9th, 1992
ISBN: 0393310639
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton