Regeneration Through Violence

Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (CT. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 1973)

“There was, thank God, a great voluptuary born to the American Settlements against the niggardliness of the damming puritanical tradition…For this [the puritanical tradition as a spiritually withering plague] he has remained since buried in a miscolored legend and left for rotten.  Far from dead, however, but full of a rich regenerative violence he remains, when his history will be carefully reported, for us who have come after to call upon him.”

– William Carlos William, In the American Grain (qtd. in Slotkin, pg. 2)

“It is by now a commonplace that our adherence to the ‘myth of the frontier’–the conception of America as a wide-open land of unlimited opportunity for the strong, ambitious, self-reliant individual to thrust his way to the top–blinded us to the consequences of the industrial and urban revolutions ad to the need of social reform and a new concept of individual and communal welfare…The first colonists saw in America an opportunity to regenerate their fortunes, their spirits, and the power of their church and nation; but the means to that regeneration ultimately became the means of violence, and the myth of regeneration through violence became the structuring metaphor of the American experience” (5).

“The mythopoeic mode of consciousness”→ mythopoeic imagination (7).

Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992)

“The exchange of an old, domestic, agrarian frontier for a new frontier of world power and industrial development had been a central trope in American political and historiographical debates since the 1890s…the contemporary crisis of American development has arisen from the closing of the ‘old frontier’ and the delaying in finding a new one” (3).

“[In 1890,] the landed frontier of the United States was officially declared ‘closed’…’Frontier’ became primarily a term of ideological rather than geographical reference” (4)

“[In the last decade of the nineteenth century] the Frontier…was becoming a set of symbols that constituted an explanation of history. Its significance as a mythic space began to outweigh its importance as a real place…For most Americans…the West became a landscape known through, and completely identified with, the fictions created about it” (61).

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