restricted access Postfrontier Horizons

The books under review here study how certain Anglo-European and African-American writers in the twentieth century have appropriated and revised the narrative patterns and symbols associated with the dominant cultural imaginary of the American frontier and West. Instead of regeneration through violence, scenes of alienated domesticity and violence in western literary marriages from Wister through Didion, William Handley argues, represent "the degenerative sign of a failed project of national union and identity" (231). Michael Johnson shows how a range of African-American male and female writers interweave, adapt and revise both EuroAmerican (frontier narrative) and African-American (slave narrative) literary forms to explore themes of racial freedom and oppression and the construction of masculine identity. Both books exemplify the newer field imaginary of western American literary studies emerging during the past few years.