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Introduction

  • Richard Wattenberg
Chapter
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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Abstract

Since colonial times, the American frontier has provided New World artists and literati especially those in what has become the United States with a rich source of narrative material. Frontier themes and motifs have been a primary focus especially for Euro-American artists and writers in search of a distinctly American experience. Even as events associated with the settlement of the western frontier have slipped further and further into the past, the impact of western frontier imagery on how Americans define themselves has remained. There are numerous instances of the lingering power of the frontier mystique. One might note the periodic resurgence of Western movies exemplified in the early 1990s by such popular and well-received films as Dances with Wolves (1990) and The Unforgiven (1992), as well as the two versions of the Wyatt Earp story, Tombstone (1993) and Wyatt Earp (1994), and in the new century by such highly praised movies as Open Range (2003), 3:10 to Yuma (2007), Appaloosa (2008), and True Grit (2010). One might also consider the successful HBO television series Deadwood, launched in 2004.

Keywords

Legitimate Theater American Drama Periodic Resurgence Indian Play American Audience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Elliott West, “Selling of the Myth: Western Images in Advertising,” Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture, ed. Richard Aquila (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 283.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Regarding this campaign, see, for instance, Loren Stein, “How to Fight Big Tobacco and Win,” A Healthy Me, 2001 Consumer Health Interactive, June 10, 2009, http://www.ahealthyme.com/topic/bigtobacco.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
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    Roger A. Hall, Performing the American Frontier, 1870–1906 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Discussing this turn-of-the-century popular melodrama, especially of “the 10. 20. 30.” variety, Montrose J. Moses referred specifically to the American Theatre on Eighth Avenue and the Thalia Theatre in the Bowery. See, The American Dramatist (Boston: Little, 1925; New York: Benjamin Blom, 1964), 298.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    For instance, see Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: Norton, 1987).Google Scholar
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    Robert Rogers, Ponteach: Or the Savages of America, A Tragedy, with an introduction and a biography of the author by Allan Nevins (Chicago: Caxton Club, 1914), 201.Google Scholar
  17. 15.
    The significance of Pocahontas for the early American sense of national identity is explored in Susan Scheckel, “Domesticating the Drama of Conquest: Pocahontas on the Popular Stage,” in The Insistence of the Indian: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 41–69.Google Scholar
  18. 16.
    Richard Moody, America Takes the Stage: Romanticism in American Drama and Theatre, 1750–1900 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1955), 105.Google Scholar
  19. 17.
    The complex relation between the representation of the Native American in Euro-American culture and the “true nature” of Native Americans is the subject of landmark studies like Roy Harvey Pearce, Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1953, 1965).Google Scholar
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  23. 19.
    For instance, see Arthur Hobson Quinn, A History of the American Drama: From the Civil War to the Present Day, vol. I (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1936), 105; Moody, 174.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    At least this was the view of audiences in the 1830s. In this regard, see James Tidwell’s introduction to James Kirke Paulding, The Lion of the West, revised by John Augustus Stone and William Bayle Bernard and edited by James N. Tidwell (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1954), 7–8.Google Scholar
  25. 23.
    In this regard, see Rosemarie Bank, “Frontier Melodrama,” in Theatre West: Image and Impact, Dutch Quarterly Review Studies in Literature 7, ed. Dunbar H. Ogden with Douglas McDermott and Robert K. Sarl ós (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990), 152, and Bank, “Historical, Dramatic, Theatrical, and Social Contexts,” 105–6.Google Scholar
  26. 24.
    Regarding “dry land farming,” see Frieda Knobloch, The Culture of Wilderness: Agriculture as Colonization in the American West (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 62–66.Google Scholar
  27. 25.
    See Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, The Growth of the American Republic, vol. II, 5th ed. (New York: Oxford University, 1962), 133–35, 152–58. For another and somewhat more recent discussion of Western migration in the nineteenth century, see Richard White, 183–211.Google Scholar
  28. 26.
    This fact not only is noted by Frederick Jackson Turner, but also inspired his famous essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” in The Frontier in American History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1986), 1.Google Scholar
  29. 34.
    In this regard, Turner wrote in a letter to Merle Curti that “[A]s you know, the ‘West,’ with which I dealt, was a process rather than a fixed geographical region: it began with the Atlantic Coast; and it emphasized the way in which the East colonized the West, and how the ‘West,’ as it stood at any given period affected the development and ideas of the older areas of the East.…” [quoted by Wilbur Jacobs in “Frederick Jackson Turner,” The American West Magazine 1.1 (1964), 32].Google Scholar
  30. 35.
    Various scholars have explored the significance of the fact that both Turner and Buffalo Bill were associated with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. See Ann Fabian, “History of the Masses: Commercializing the Western Past,” in Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past, eds. William Cronon, George Miles, Jay Gitlin (New York: Norton, 1992), 223–238.Google Scholar
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  32. 36.
    Regarding Turner’s reviews of Roosevelt’s Winning of the West, see Ray Allen Billington, Frederick Jackson Turner: Historian, Scholar, Teacher (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 83–84 and 176–77.Google Scholar
  33. Allan G. Bogue, Frederick Jackson Turner: Strange Roads Going Down (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), 87–88 and 137–39.Google Scholar
  34. 37.
    Augustus Thomas, The Print of My Remembrance (New York: Scribner’s, 1922), 336, 344.Google Scholar
  35. 38.
    Darwin Payne, Owen Wister: Chronicler of the West, Gentleman of the West (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1985), 163–4.Google Scholar
  36. 39.
    Frank P. Morse, Backstage with Henry Miller (New York: Dutton, 1938), 277.Google Scholar
  37. 43.
    While Gramsci does not abandon Marxist materialistic determinism, he uses the concept of “hegemony” to explain and explore the problematics of “political consciousness” and “progressive self-consciousness.” For instance, see Antonio Gramsci, “The Study of Philosophy and of Historical Materialism,” in The Modern Prince and Other Writings, trans. Louis Marks (New York: International Publishers, 1957), 66–67.Google Scholar
  38. 44.
    The shift from late-nineteenth-/early-twentieth-century frontier discourse to late-twentieth-/early-twenty-first-century frontier discourse is exemplified by the tension between the “old triumphal frontier history” and the “New Western History” expressed by the likes of Patricia Limerick and Richard White in Trails: Toward a New Western History, ed. Patricia Nelson Limerick, Clyde A. Milner II, and Charles E. Ranken (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992).Google Scholar
  39. The way in which the “New Western Historians” restructured the field of Western history is most obvious in how they address the concept of “frontier,” which Limerick humorously called the “F-word” (“The Adventures of the Frontier in the Twentieth Century,” in The Frontier in American Culture, 72). Understanding Turner’s “frontier” as a process, Limerick changes the parameters of the field by “choosing to stress place more than process” (Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest, 26). Replacing the term “frontier” with a term like “region” only begins to suggest the paradigm shift underlying the new discourse. Also see Richard White, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own”: A History of the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). For a discussion of various aspects—both pro and con—of New Western History, see The New Western History: The Territory Ahead, ed. Forrest G. Robinson (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  40. 45.
    Richard Slotkin, “Myth and the Production of History,” in Ideology and Classic American Literature, ed. Sacvan Bercovitch and Myra Jehlen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 82.Google Scholar
  41. 47.
    Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 8.Google Scholar
  42. 49.
    Bruce McConachie, Melodramatic Formations: American Theatre and Society, 1820–1870 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992), xii.Google Scholar

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© Richard Wattenberg 2011

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