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B o o k R e v ie w s 113 Laura Ingalls Wilder and the American Frontier: Five Perspectives. Edited by Dwight M. Miller. Langham, Md.: University Press of America, 2002. 126 pages, $24-00. Reviewed by Laura Cuozzo Somerville, Massachusetts The five contributors to this slim collection explore methods of interpret' ing the production, consumption, and cultural relevance of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Elizabeth Jameson’s introduction downplays the contention that drove earlier scholarship over the role that daughter Rose Wilder Lane, journalist and libertarian polemicist, had in the writing of these much'beloved books. Jameson emphasizes instead more substantive themes of relationship and memory that have sustained the growing body of criticism as evidenced in the essays that follow. The first two essays explore the complicated negotiations scholars enter attempting to pin down their subject and their own authorial position when their topic is weighted with personal history. John E. Miller surveys the available historical materials and the interpretative challenges that frustrate attempts at forming an accurate biography of Wilder. His greater theme is the recognition that no rendering of history is ever entirely truthful and no view of a biographi­ cal subject complete. Ann Romines explains how her childhood relationship to the books and their author both encouraged and complicated her later scholarship . She describes the discovery of her childhood favorites as a frontier few scholars had settled. Her own scholarship functions as a borderland where she encounters multiple, interconnected subjectivities as reader, fan, and scholar. Another aspect of the Little House books that many scholars struggle to handle in their interpretations is that Wilder and Lane were both virulently against the New Deal. These sentiments appear explicitly in some passages, and more subtly other ways, such as the exaggerated isolation of the Ingalls family and their self-sufficiency. The next two essays directly examine the importance of the political agenda behind the Little House books. Making original use of primary research, Anita Claire Fellman conducts a close reading of the “cultural work” the books perform in school, in the community, at play, and at home. Fellman contends that activities associated with the consumption of these books cause readers to associate individualistic values with comforting feelings. Jameson analyzes the way that Wilder structured the stories to fit the frontier plot she inherited from Frederick Jackson Turner. She finds Wilder’s most significant revision in the inversion of Turner’s male-oriented myth of the individual by making family, what Turner dismissed as a primitive unit, the central building block. The final essay by educator Ann Weller Dahl could serve as a guide on how to teach the Little House books in elementary schools and also provides 114 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 5 a counterpoint to the more scholarly examinations, reminding us why readers return to these books—because they tell a good story. This collection, particularly the pieces by Romines and Jameson, serves as an excellent model of how interdisciplinary approaches continue to invigorate Wilder studies and makes a strong case for the books’ historic and literary significance. Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock Climbing. By Alexander Huber and Heinz Zak. Birmingham, Ala.: Menasha Ridge Press, 2003. 176 pages, $45.00. Reviewed by Mikel Vause Weber State University, Ogden, Utah Every so often a book comes along that is a real surprise, like a history of Yosemite written by a German with photographs by an Austrian. Yosemite has, almost from the beginning, since John Muir heralded it as one of America’s most valuable treasures, drawn tourists from all over the globe to walk in its lush valleys and explore its trails. Yet, since the late 1940s, Yosemite has held an additional fascination for those who are drawn not to its forested valleys but to its vertical and polished granite cliffs. In the middle 1800s, Josiah Whitney, the man for whom Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States, is named, as well as its leading geologist, hypothesized that Yosemite’s deep...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 113-114
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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