Publication Year

1988

Keywords

Literature, history, mythography, women, frontier, Dreiser

Disciplines

Comparative Literature | Creative Writing | English Language and Literature | United States History | Women's Studies

Abstract

The joke was on Huck, of course. Twain knew it and so did his readers. In fact, Frederick Jackson Turner confirmed in 1890, "The superintendent of the census for 1890 reports...that the settlements of the West lie so scattered over the region that there can no longer be said to be a frontier line." In a sense, the turn-of-century marks a virtual crisis in American consciousness. The Frontier, which had for so long been the American symbol for moral regeneration and capitalist expansion, crumbled under the wight of modernization. The mythic Frontier had represented the edge of civilization where the American individual could renew the vigor that had driven American expansion throughout the 18th and 19th centuries by conquering a mysterious, savage landscape. Yet the mythology of the Frontier, and all it stood for, had its roots in the material circumstances of the New World. Free, open land gave birth to the myth and became an outlet for psychic, as well as economic, necessity. That is, Americans had used the myth, at least partly, to "avoid recognition of the perilous consequences of capitalist development in the New World, and...deflect...social conflict into the world of myth."

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

Department 2 Awarding Honors Status

History

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