Before the West Was West: Rethinking the Temporal Borders of Western American Literature
Abstract

Abstract:

“Before the West was West: Rethinking the Temporal Borders of Western American Literature” Questions of how to define “Western American Literature” and how to define the “American West” have long occupied scholars of Western literary studies. As these definitions have evolved, the boundaries have been shifted to include more voices and more experiences of the West. Recent developments in criticism have expanded the purview of “Western American Literature” to include 21st-century texts and those that take place in urban and suburban spaces. Yet even in the face of constantly shifting and expanding boundaries, few scholars in the field have seriously studied texts written prior to 1800 through the lens of “Western American Literature.” Using Mary Rowlandson’s 1682 The Sovereignty and Goodness of God as a case study, this essay questions the scant critical attention paid to earlier texts and asks scholars to rethink what—or perhaps when—we mean by “Western American literature.”