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Outside America
Race, Ethnicity, and the Role of the American West in National Belonging
Dan Moos

Reencounters with Colonialism: New Perspectives on the Americas

2005 • 272 pp. 24 illus. 6 x 9"
Literary Criticism / Literary Criticism - American / African-American Studies

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"This book deserves wide readership. Moos asks big questions, and his inspired use of three marginalized groups provokes the reader to rethink stock conceptions of U.S. history and the American West. His deft synthesis and analysis also bring new light to the history of African Americans, Mormons, and Amerian Indians."Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

A new study of those excluded from the national narrative of the West.

Dan Moos challenges both traditional and revisionist perspectives in his exploration of the role of the mythology of the American West in the creation of a national identity. While Moos concurs with contemporary scholars who note that the myths of the American West depended in part upon the exclusion of certain groups—African Americans, Native Americans, and Mormons—he notes that many scholars, in their eagerness to identify and validate such excluded positions, have given short shrift to the cultural power of the myths they seek to debunk. That cultural power was such, Moos notes, that these disenfranchised groups themselves sought to harness it to their own ends through the active appropriation of the terms of those myths in advocating for their own inclusion in the national narrative. Moos reads a variety of texts by such marginalized westerners and argues that, because the construction of American culture was never designed to accommodate these outsiders, their writings display a division between their imagined place in the narrative of the nation and their effacement within the real West marked by intolerance and inequality.

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Reviews / Endorsements

"In Outside America: Race, Ethnicity, and the Role of the American West in National Belonging, Dan Moos examines how people who never benefited from being 'free, white, and twenty-one' nevertheless adopted and adapted facets of dominant western myths and stories as a way of claiming right to an American identity. It's an interesting hypothesis, focusing on African Americans, Native Americans, and Mormons who chose to publish memoir, fiction or, in the case of some of the West's most famous Indians, take part in the fiction that was Buffalo Bill's Wild West."—Western American Literature

“Moos makes some useful points illustrating his overarching theme that marginalized groups found ways of including themselves within a frontier mythology that assumed definitive form by the end of the nineteenth century.”The Journal of American History

"There is much to admire in this book. The treatments of Sitting Bull, Black Elk, and Luther Standing Bear in particular are worthy of careful study. As Moos shows, all these men found remarkable degrees of creative latitude in performing Indian identities for paying audiences, and all found ways of utilizing frontier myth to their own ends. In this connection, Moo's effort to challenge simplistic arguments about triumphalism in western history is both successful and welcome."
Western Historical Quarterly

Outside America is an outstanding, original analysis of the material fantasies, myths of identity, and vanity narratives of the American West. Dan Moos knowingly compares the arenas of national culture created by Theodore Roosevelt, Oscar Micheaux, Buffalo Bill, Luther Standing Bear, and many other frontier storiers.”Gerald Vizenor, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley.

“So powerful was the image of the West in the national imagination, argues Dan Moos in Outside America, that it offered terms of inclusion to‘Americans’ as different as Theodore Roosevelt and Oscar Micheaux, Mormonsand Indigenes. Perceptively tracking the power of those terms, especially for those at the social, cultural and economic margins of the U.S., Moos asks what they gained by their appropriation and how it shaped both their
experience and the terms of ‘American identity.’”
Priscilla Wald, Associate Professor of English, Duke University and author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form (1995)

From the Book:

"Outside America locates the place of the American West in the national culture of turn-of-the-twentieth-century America and considers the ways this narrative was appropriated by those Americans who resided structurally outside of the story. Looking at writers who did not fit into the terms of national unity because of structural differences such as race or religion, I examine how these writers embraced or found themselves caught within the web of that dominant national story that excluded their presence. Many of the writers considered pursued the ideals of American culture—here, the mythic narratives of the American West—in the belief that its broad terms could include their own voices. By writing within these tropes, such writers often dissociate their literary worlds and their everyday lives, revealing the limits of the myths as well as the constraints set upon these outsiders by both political and civil society. In legal, economic, and rhetorical structures, the West served an important role in situating American citizens’ ordinary lives."

DAN MOOS is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:07:55 -0500