History, prophecy and myth: Reconstructing American frontiers and the modern West
AuthorSpurgeon, Sara Louise
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study explores and analyzes the ways in which three contemporary writers--Cormac McCarthy, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Ana Castillo--are revisioning the archetypal frontier myths which have shaped, and continue to shape, American culture. Just as with earlier versions, modern frontier myths are mixed and hybridized, the often troubled offspring of parents from multiple cultures and races co-existing in an uneasy intimacy. Contrary to some scholars' assumption, modern American culture is neither lacking in myths, nor unmarked by centuries of conquest and co-existence with Native cultures and their myths. The myths of both the European and Native worlds collided and combined on the various frontiers of the Americas, and the presence of Indians and Indian myths as well as Mexican and other groups have deeply impacted the shape of those myths which justify and direct American culture today. The still unresolved conflicts and tensions inherent in the history of conquest and colonization in the Americas both keeps traditional myths alive and demands their metamorphosis in response to the realities of life in the U.S. at the start of the new millennium when the very questions these myths struggled to answer--issues of national and racial identity, human interactions with the world of nature, and relationships between the conqueror and the conquered--remain painfully current. The purpose of this study is to trace the living remains of those myths and examine their rebirth at the hands of three contemporary writers. The spaces in which the works of these writers collide offer some sharply differentiated visions, but the spaces in which overlap has occurred, where the myths of one culture have become inextricably, often unknowingly, intertwined with those of another, each forcing the others into new and unsuspected forms, provide the most startling insights. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes tragic, the new myths born from these couplings are nonetheless, like any living story, the expressions of the larger culture from which they spring, both a projection onto a troubled and troubling past and an insistent, prophetic vision of a shared future.
Degree ProgramGraduate College