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The Rhizomatic West

Representing the American West in a Transnational, Global, Media Age

Neil Campbell

Publication Year: 2008

Is the American West in Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti westerns” the same American West we find in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X? In Jim Jarmusch’s movies? In Calexico’s music? Or is the American West, as this book tells us, a constantly moving, mutating idea within a complex global culture? And what, precisely (or better yet, imprecisely) does it mean?
Using Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the rhizome, Neil Campbell shows how the West (or west-ness) continually breaks away from a mainstream notion of American “rootedness” and renews and transforms itself in various cultural forms. A region long traversed by various transient peoples (from tribes and conquerors to immigrants, traders, and trappers), the West reflects a mythic quest for settlement, permanence, and synthesis—even notions of a national or global identity—at odds with its rootless history, culture, and nature. Crossing the concept of “roots” with “routes,” this book shows how notions of the West—in representations ranging from literature and film to photography, music, and architectural theory—give expression to ideas about identity, nationhood, and belonging in a world increasingly defined by movement across time and borders. The Rhizomatic West offers a new vision of the American West as a hybrid, performative space, a staging place for myriad intersecting and constantly changing identities.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Postwestern Horizons


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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vi

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pp. vii

Many people have helped, in many different ways, with the writing of this book. I would like to begin by thanking Stephen Tatum for his generous advice and understanding of my work, for his friendship and great company in diverse western places. Also a big thank you to fellow scholars and friends ...

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Introduction: Theorizing the Rhizomatic West

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pp. 1-40

"Like people and schools of criticism, ideas and theories travel -- from person to person, from situation to situation, from one period to another. Cultural and intellectual life are usually nourished and often sustained by this circulation of ideas, and whether it takes the form of acknowledged or ...

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1. Toward an Expanded Critical Regionalism: Contact and Interchange

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pp. 41-74

As discussed in the introduction, a central concern of this book is how to think differently about the American West, to decentralize and dislocate the ways it has so often been considered, even among so-called revisionist writers and scholars, so that we might see westness as part of a larger system ...

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2. Feasts of Wire: Rubén Martinez and the Transfrontera Contact Zone

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pp. 75-112

To examine one specific type of critical regionalism I wish to turn to José David Saldívar's Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies (1997), a work influenced by the theoretical syncretism of Stuart Hall's and Paul Gilroy's British cultural studies and seeking to present "the U.S.-Mexico border ...

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3. Welcome to Westworld: Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West

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pp. 113-150

An expanded critical regionalism like that explored in the previous chapters demonstrates that no region can be static or inward-looking, for it needs to recognize forces beyond the nation, considering how the regional travels and dialogues with other cultures, circulating as it is consumed and re-produced ...

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4. "The 'Western' in Quotes": Generic Variations

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pp. 151-182

As I discussed in the previous chapter, Sergio Leone's films were seen by some as the death knell of the Western and by others as its regenerative force, breathing new life into a tired, mythic formula and seeing the genre as the site for cultural critique and counterhegemonic practice. The established generic ...

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5. Dialogical Landscapes: "Outsider" Photography of the West

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pp. 183-228

Joel Meyerowitz has written of how he believes photographs work: "You picture something in a frame and it's got lots of accounting going on in it -- stones and buildings and trees and air -- but that's not what fills up a frame. You fill up a frame with feelings, energy, discovery, and risk, and leave room enough ...

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6. Strata and Routes: Livnig on Reservation X

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pp. 229-268

Writing this chapter from outside the United States and as a white critic has made me doubly conscious of my position in relation to the texts I am going to discuss, very much aware (again) of my "outsider" status. At the risk of making errors, of which I am sure there are many, I wanted to examine some notable ...

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7. Postwestern Generations? Douglas Coupland's "Plastic Radiant Way"

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pp. 269-298

Mike Davis writes of how the belief of Native American prophet Wovoka in the Ghost Dance as an apocalyptic reminder of the instability of a white West is still alive and evident as one surveys the "artificial world" of L.A.'s "neon landscapes" -- "Turnerian history . . . stripped down to its ultimate paranoia," ...

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Conclusion: On "The Crystal Frontier"

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pp. 299-324

Jean-François Lyotard's postmodern experimental text Pacific Wall begins with a description of the University of California, San Diego library as a "transparent jewel" with its "walls of glass" pointing in all directions, both "internal" and "external," radiating both total vision and knowledge ...


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pp. 325-378


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pp. 379-383

E-ISBN-13: 9780803217836
E-ISBN-10: 0803217838

Illustrations: 14 b/w photos
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Postwestern Horizons