NEW WESTERN HISTORY
- This term refers to the revisionist history of the American West associated most often with historian Patricia Limerick, who in the 1980s began questioning Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis and the traditional interpretation of the frontier as being the formative feature of the American character. Turner’s interpretation of the frontier was the basis of most Westerns of the classic era as well as the silent era. New Western history has had a profound effect on cinema Westerns since the 1990s in the creation of alternative Westerns.Essentially, New Western history makes four claims, as laid out by Limerick in a “nonmanifesto” in 1989:1. The term frontier is nationalistic and usually racist. The westward movement was a movement of white exploitation.2. Whether for good or ill, the westward movement occurred among a diverse group of peoples and was not confined to white males.3. This interaction continues today. The “frontier” did not end in 1890, as Turner claimed. Much has happened since and is as important as what went before.4. The western movement is not a story of triumph over adversity and certainly did not result in the ennoblement of the American character. Quite to the contrary: the western movement is fraught with moral ambiguity and shame.Obviously, this view of the West is at odds with the view of the classical Western.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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