Exploding the Western
Myths of Empire on the Postmodern Frontier
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
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1. Foundation of Empire: The Sacred Hunter and the Eucharist of the Wilderness in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian
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Cormac McCarthy’s Southwestern works, and Blood Meridian in particular, have been seen as both archetypal Westerns and as anti- Westerns, as myth and counter-myth, as glorifications of American imperialism and as damning indictments of it. I will argue here that McCarthy does indeed evoke archetypal myths and mythic heroes that have traditionally been used to serve the cause of American westward expansion and imperialism. That is, in part, the function of myth—to legitimate current ...
2. "Pledged in Blood”: Truth and Redemption in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses
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As many critics have noted, it is no coincidence that the action of All the Pretty Horses takes place exactly one hundred years after that of Blood Meridian. In many ways, Pretty Horses is the offspring of that book, an elegy for a romanticized way of life, a code of honor, a mythical world both birthed and brutally murdered in Blood Meridian. In Pretty Horses, we see the modern embodiment of the ancient myth of the sacred hunter—the sacred cowboy.
3. "The Acts of Their Own Hands”: Borders, Otherness, and Identity in Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing
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Unlike All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing met with mixed reactions from critics. Denser, more complex, and much darker in vision (though hardly rivaling the apocalyptic horror of Blood Meridian), The Crossing continues McCarthy’s exploration of myths and their relationship to culture and identity. Blood Meridian looked at how myths shape cultures through shaping their history and providing guidelines for how cultures will view themselves and their worlds. All the Pretty Horses, in turn, ...
4. Decolonizing Imperialism: Captivity Myths and the Postmodern World in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony
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The frontier myth, as it functions for Anglo America, can be seen as a set of hero tales modeling morally justified acts of violence meant to assert and maintain the dominance of a favored class and race. The works of Cormac McCarthy illustrate how powerfully this myth shapes the beliefs and attitudes of white Americans. In Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko utilizes the same mythic narrative to interrogate the ways in which the process of imperialism takes place beyond the level of laws and guns, examining how it is maintained and the impact it has in constructing the identity ...
5. Sanctioned Narratives and the (Non)Innocent Triumph of the Savage War: Mythic Co-Dependence in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead
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In Almanac of the Dead, Leslie Marmon Silko attacks and disrupts the sanctioned narratives of American innocence and the presumption of the inevitable triumph of superior Anglo culture over the darkskinned natives of the “New World” by subverting the most common vehicle of that mythic narrative, the Western. She challenges the mythical status of America’s founding heroes and the “cherished ideas and values” that support them. Nonetheless, she depends upon the very myths she challenges. The result is a complex text, at once recognizably a Western and, simultaneously, ...
6. Necessary Difference: The Creation of a Chicana Utopia in Ana Castillo’s So Far from God
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Like many other Western novels, So Far from God is essentially concerned with space—geographic, metaphysical, cultural, and spiritual. Previous chapters in this work have examined the myth of the frontier as it was traditionally utilized in the claiming of territory through justified violence in the quest to establish an imperial space. So Far from God imagines how the myth of the frontier may be used by the subaltern subject as well as the dominant culture(s) to shape the space thus claimed. The quest for a new Eden through the founding of a white utopia in the wilderness of ...
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Myth, Roland Barthes asserts, is a type of speech chosen by history. It has “a double function: it points out and it notifies, it makes us understand something and it imposes it on us” (117). Myth transforms history into nature, he argues, by giving historical intention a natural justification, thus making contingency appear eternal (142).
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Page Count: 184
Illustrations: Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2005