Western Frontier

In 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner introduced his “frontier thesis,” which advanced the concept of the West as an untamed region of free land stretching out endlessly and breeding masculine individualism, heroic action, democratic citizenship, and national progress through adventurous exploration and the arduous work of settlement. This idea has held great sway over the American imagination. Popular culture has long romanticized prosaic elements of western history, transforming cattle drives into man-making odysseys and labor disputes into epic wars, while the cowboy himself has metamorphosed from underpaid laborer to archetype of American heroism. The imaginary West persists as a place free of culture, appearing in American literature and film as an escape from a feminized civilization—a natural setting that could free men from the genteel ...

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