Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America

TitleGunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsSlotkin, Richard
Number of Pages862
PublisherAtheneum
CityNew York
Abstract

On July 16, 1960, John F. Kennedy came to the podium of the Los Angeles Coliseum to accept the Democratic Party's nomination as candidate for President. As is customary in American political oratory, Kennedy used his acceptance speech to provide a slogan that would characterize his administration's style of thought and action. "I stand tonight facing West on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch 3000 miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up. Their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. .[But] the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won, and we stand today on the edge of a new frontier - the frontier of the 1960s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and paths, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats." By invoking the Frontier as a symbol to trademark his candidacy, Kennedy also tapped into one of the most resonant and persistent. American myths. As Richard Slotkin shows in this extraordinarily informed and wide-ranging new book, the myth of the Frontier has been perhaps the most pervasive influence behind American culture and politics in this century;. Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America brings to completion a distinguished trilogy of books that includes The Fatal Environment and the award-winning Regeneration Through Violence. Beginning in 1893 at the World. Columbian Exposition in Chicago with Frederick Jackson Turner's famous address on the closing of the American frontier and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Slotkin examines the transformation from history to myth of events like Custer's last stand and explores the myriad and fundamental ways the myth influences American culture and politics. Although Turner's "Frontier Thesis" became the dominant interpretation of our national experience among academic historians, it was. The racialist theory of history (the ascendancy and superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race), embodied in Theodore Roosevelt's The Winning of the West, that was most influential in popular culture and government policy-making over the course of this century; The explicit assumptions about race and civilization in the Frontier myth articulated by Roosevelt provided the justification for most of America's expansionist policies, from Roosevelt's own Rough riders to Kennedy's. And Johnson's counterinsurgency policies in Southeast Asia. Thus America's defeat in Vietnam, Slotkin argues, ruptured the very foundation of our public mythology, and caused a crisis of confidence unprecedented in American history. Drawing on an impressive and diverse array of materials from dime novels, pulp fiction and Hollywood westerns to the writings and careers of figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, Owen Wister, Jesse James, Zane Grey, John Ford, Sam Peckinpah. John Wayne and John F. Kennedy, Richard Slotkin reveals the connections that link our mythology with real life (he sees it as no surprise that The Wild Bunch was in the theaters while the revelation of the Mylai Massacre was on the newsstands). Richard Slotkin has been referred to as "one of the most gifted people alive when it comes to the cultural interpretation of fiction" (Patricia Limerick, The Yale Review). With Gunfighter Nation, he confirms himself as one of our. Preeminent cultural critics. Sure to spark intense debate, this monumental book offers an original, incisive and highly provocative interpretation of our national experience.

Short TitleGunfighter Nation
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25281419

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