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Postwestern Horizons

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Postwestern Horizons

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Captivating Westerns

The Middle East in the American West

Susan Kollin

Tracing the transnational influences of what has been known as a uniquely American genre, “the Western,” Susan Kollin’s Captivating Westerns analyzes key moments in the history of multicultural encounters between the Middle East and the American West. In particular, the book examines how experiences of contact and conflict have played a role in defining the western United States as a crucial American landscape. Kollin interprets the popular Western as a powerful national narrative and presents the cowboy hero as a captivating figure who upholds traditional American notions of freedom and promise, not just in the region but across the globe. Captivating Westerns revisits popular uses of the Western plot and cowboy hero in understanding American global power in the post-9/11 period.

Although various attempts to build a case for the war on terror have referenced this quintessential American region, genre, and hero, they have largely overlooked the ways in which these celebrated spaces, icons, and forms, rather than being uniquely American, are instead the result of numerous encounters with and influences from the Middle East. By tracing this history of contact, encounter, and borrowing, this study expands the scope of transnational studies of the cowboy and the Western and in so doing discloses the powerful and productive influence of the Middle East on the American West.

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Dirty Wars

Landscape, Power, and Waste in Western American Literature

John Beck

Since World War II, the American West has become the nation’s military arsenal, proving ground, and disposal site. Through a wide-ranging discussion of recent literature produced in and about the West, Dirty Wars explores how the region’s iconic landscapes, invested with myths of national virtue, have obscured the West’s crucial role in a post–World War II age of “permanent war.”
 
In readings of western—particularly southwestern—literature, John Beck provides a historically informed account of how the military-industrial economy, established to protect the United States after Pearl Harbor, has instead produced western waste lands and “waste populations” as the enemies and collateral casualties of a permanent state of emergency. Beck offers new readings of writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Leslie Marmon Silko, Don DeLillo, Rebecca Solnit, Julie Otsuka, and Terry Tempest Williams. He also draws on a variety of sources in history, political theory, philosophy, environmental studies, and other fields. Throughout Dirty Wars, he identifies resonances between different experiences and representations of the West that allow us to think about internment policies, the manufacture of atomic weapons, the culture of Cold War security, border policing, and toxic pollution as part of a broader program of a sustained and invasive management of western space.

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Dirty Words in Deadwood

Literature and the Postwestern

Melody Graulich

Dirty Words in “Deadwood” showcases literary analyses of the Deadwood television series by leading western American literary critics. Whereas previous reaction to the series has largely addressed the question of historical accuracy rather than intertextuality or literary complexity, Melody Graulich and Nicolas S. Witschi’s edited volume brings a much-needed perspective to Deadwood’s representation of the frontier West.

As Graulich observes in her introduction: “With its emotional coherence, compelling characterizations, compressed structural brilliance, moral ambiguity, language experiments, interpretation of the past, relevance to the present, and engagement with its literary forebears, Deadwood is an aesthetic triumph as historical fiction and, like much great literature, makes a case for the humanistic value of storytelling.” From previously unpublished interviews with series creator David Milch to explorations of sexuality, disability, cinematic technique, and western narrative, this collection focuses on Deadwood as a series ultimately about the imagination, as a verbal and visual construct, and as a literary masterpiece that richly rewards close analysis and interpretation.

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Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Critical and Pedagogical Perspectives

Amelia Maria de la Luz Montes

Since the recent republication of her novel The Squatter and the Don, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton (1832–95) has become a key figure in the recovery of nineteenth-century Mexican American literature. An aristocratic Californiana, she championed the rights of Mexican Americans in novels, plays, and letters. Her 1885 novel called attention to the illegal appropriation of Mexican land by the United States government, and she critiqued the political mores of America after the Civil War in light of the Mexican-American war. Her keen assessment of corporate capitalism at the end of the nineteenth century, frank acknowledgment of feminine desire, and deft insights about economic realities and class relations were unique among her American peers.

Using Ruiz de Burton’s work to analyze the critical schism conventionally imposed on nineteenth-century literary culture in America, the essays in this collection also draw connections between her work and the contemporary Chicana and Chicano canons. At once richly historical and critically nuanced, these essays appraise a politically complex Mexican American writer alternately celebrated as marginalized and censured for her identification with a social elite. This volume includes a section on pedagogy that offers a discussion of teaching approaches, syllabi, discussion questions, and assignments.

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Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins

Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

John Blair Gamber

In this innovative study, Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins, John Blair Gamber examines urbanity and the results of urban living—traffic, garbage, sewage, waste, and pollution—arguing for a new recognition of all forms of human detritus as part of the natural world and thus for a broadening of our understanding of environmental literature.
 
 
While much of the discourse surrounding the United States’ idealistic and nostalgic views of itself privileges “clean” living (primarily in rural, small-town, and suburban settings), representations of rurality and urbanity by Chicanas/Chicanos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, on the other hand, complicate such generalization. Gamber widens our understanding of current ecocritical debates by examining texts by such authors as Octavia Butler, Louise Erdrich, Alejandro Morales, Gerald Vizenor, and Karen Tei Yamashita that draw on the physical signs of human corporeality to refigure cities and urbanity as natural. He demonstrates how ethnic American literature reclaims waste objects and waste spaces—likening pollution to miscegenation—as a method to revalue cast-off and marginalized individuals and communities. Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins explores the conjunction of, and the frictions between, twentieth-century U.S. postcolonial studies, race studies, urban studies, and ecocriticism, and works to refigure this portrayal of urban spaces.

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Post-Westerns

Cinema, Region, West

Neil Campbell

During the post-World War II period, the Western, like America’s other great film genres, appeared to collapse as a result of revisionism and the emergence of new forms. Perhaps, however, as theorists like Gilles Deleuze suggest, it remains, simply “maintaining its empty frame.” Yet this frame is far from empty, as Post-Westerns shows us: rather than collapse, the Western instead found a new form through which to scrutinize and question the very assumptions on which the genre was based. Employing the ideas of critics such as Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Rancière, Neil Campbell examines the haunted inheritance of the Western in contemporary U.S. culture. His book reveals how close examination of certain postwar films—including Bad Day at Black Rock, The Misfits, Lone Star, Easy Rider, Gas Food Lodging, Down in the Valley, and No Country for Old Men—reconfigures our notions of region and nation, the Western, and indeed the West itself.

Campbell suggests that post-Westerns are in fact “ghost-Westerns,” haunted by the earlier form’s devices and styles in ways that at once acknowledge and call into question the West, both as such and in its persistent ideological framing of the national identity and values.
 

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Postwestern Cultures

Literature, Theory, Space

Susan Kollin

Postwestern Cultures synthesizes the most critical topics of contemporary scholarship of the American West within a single volume. This interdisciplinary anthology features leading scholars in the varied fields of western American literary studies and includes new regional studies, global studies, studies of popular culture, environmental criticism, gender and queer theory, and multiculturalism. Postwestern Cultures, like all successful studies of western American literature, is necessarily diverse and wide-ranging; it grasps the multifaceted quality of the landscape, literature, and critical analysis by engaging postmodern theory, spatial theory, cultural studies, and transnational and transcultural understandings of the local.
 
This collection emphasizes the importance of understanding the region not as a confined or static space but as a constantly changing entity in both substance and form. It examines subjects ranging from the use of frontier rhetoric in Japanese American internment camp narratives to the emergence of agricultural tourism in the New West to the application of geographer J. B. Jackson's theories to abandoned western landscapes.
 

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The Rhizomatic West

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

Neil Campbell

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.

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True West

Authenticity and the American West

William R. Handley

In no other region of the United States has the notion of authenticity played such an important yet elusive role as it has in the West. Though pervasive in literature, popular culture, and history, assumptions about western authenticity have not received adequate critical attention. Given the ongoing economic and social transformations in this vast region, the persistent nostalgia and desire for the “real” authentic West suggest regional and national identities at odds with themselves. True West explores the concept of authenticity as it is used to invent, test, advertise, and read the West.

The fifteen essays collected here apply contemporary critical and cultural theory to western literary history, Native American literature and identities, the visual West, and the imagining of place. Ranging geographically from the Canadian Prairies to Buena Park’s Entertainment Corridor in Southern California, and chronologically from early tourist narratives to contemporary environmental writing, True West challenges many assumptions we make about western writing and opens the door to an important new chapter in western literary history and cultural criticism.

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Unsettling the Literary West

Authenticity and Authorship

Nathaniel Lewis

The test of western literature has invariably been Is it real? Is it accurate? Authentic? The result is a standard anything but literary, as Nathaniel Lewis observes in this ambitious work, a wholesale rethinking of the critical terms and contexts—and thus of the very nature—of western writing.
 
Why is western writing virtually missing from the American literary canon but a frequent success in the marketplace? The skewed status of western literature, Lewis contends, can be directly attributed to the strategies of the region’s writers, and these strategies depend consistently on the claim of authenticity. A perusal of western American authorship reveals how these writers effectively present themselves as accurate and reliable recorders of real places, histories, and cultures—but not as stylists or inventors. The imaginative qualities of this literature are thus obscured in the name of authentic reproduction. Through a study of a set of western authors and their relationships to literary and cultural history, Lewis offers a reconsideration of the deceptive and often undervalued history of western American literature.
 
With unequivocal admiration for the literature under scrutiny, Lewis exposes the potential for startling new readings once western writing is freed from its insistence on a questionable authenticity. His book sets out a broader system of inquiry that points writers and critics of western literature in the direction of a new and truly sustaining literary tradition.

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