Edna Ferber's regional novels enjoyed popular acclaim as serial fiction in American magazines, show-stopping musicals on the Broadway stage, and epic sagas on the silver screen. Her 1925 novel So Big even won the Pulitzer Prize. But aside from Broadway revivals of Show Boat and late-night runs of films such as Giant and Cimarron on obscure cable television stations, Ferber's work rarely circulates popular venues or draws critical attention. This essay joins a nascent scholarly conversation about Ferber's work and an established critical dialogue about the role of white women in colonizing what would become the western half of the United States. Through the imperial domesticity of Sabra Cravat and the cultural exchanges between the Cravat family and the Osage people of Oklahoma, Ferber's Cimarron implicates American feminism for its colonial underpinnings and probes the complexities and costs of the relations between the colonizer and the colonized. Ferber narrates the price of white women's colonizing movement into the West, displaying both the desirability of cross-cultural exchange and white women's resistance to exchange. Cimarron exposes the fallout of cultural synthesis, for in this novel, Ferber undermines any sense of cultural security about "the way things are." In Cimarron, border-crossing and boundary-blurring demystify staid beliefs about American femininity and masculinity, class distinction and work ethic, and biological markers of racial difference.


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pp. 66-89
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