Imagined Frontiers: Contemporary America and Beyond

University of Oklahoma Press
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We live near the edge—whether in a settlement at the core of the Rockies, a gated community tucked into the wilds of the Santa Monica Mountains, a silicon culture emerging in the suburbs, or, in the future, homesteading on a terraformed Mars. In Imagined Frontiers, urban historian and popular culture scholar Carl Abbott looks at the work of American artists who have used novels, film, television, maps, and occasionally even performance art to explore these frontiers—the metropolitan frontier of suburban development, the classic continental frontier of American settlement, and the yet unrealized frontiers beyond Earth.

Focusing on writers and artists working during the past half-century, an era of global economic and social reach, Abbott describes the dialogue between historians and social scientists seeking to understand these frontier places and the artists reimagining them in written and visual fictions. This book offers perspectives on such well-known authors as T. C. Boyle and John Updike and on such familiar movies and television shows as Falling Down and The Sopranos. By putting The Rockford Files and the cult favorite Firefly in conversation with popular fiction writers Robert Heinlein and Stephen King and literary novelists Peter Matthiessen and Leslie Marmon Silko, Abbott interweaves the disparate subjects of western history, urban planning, and science fiction in a single volume.

Abbott combines all-new essays with others previously published but substantially revised to integrate western and urban history, literary analysis, and American studies scholarship in a uniquely compelling analysis of the frontier in popular culture.
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About the author

Carl Abbott is Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University in Oregon. He is the author of numerous books on urban history and development, including How Cities Won the West: Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America and Portland in Three Centuries: The People and the Place.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Oklahoma Press
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Published on
Sep 10, 2015
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Pages
270
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ISBN
9780806152400
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / State & Local / Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX)
History / United States / State & Local / West (AK, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, UT, WY)
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

It has been called one of the nation's most livable regions, ranked among the best managed cities in America, hailed as a top spot to work, and favored as a great place to do business, enjoy the arts, pursue outdoor recreation, and make one's home. Indeed, years of cooperative urban planning between developers and those interested in ecology and habitability have transformed Portland from a provincial western city into an exemplary American metropolis. Its thriving downtown, its strong neighborhoods, and its pioneering efforts at local management have brought a steady procession of journalists, scholars, and civic leaders to investigate the "Portland style" that values dialogue and consensus, treats politics as a civic duty, and assumes that it is possible to work toward public good.

Probing behind the press clippings, acclaimed urban historian Carl Abbott examines the character of contemporary Portland—its people, politics, and public life—and the region's history and geography in order to discover how Portland has achieved its reputation as one of the most progressive and livable cities in the United States and to determine whether typical pressures of urban growth are pushing Portland back toward the national norm.

In Greater Portland, Abbott argues that the city cannot be understood without reference to its place. Its rivers, hills, and broader regional setting have shaped the economy and the cityscape. Portlanders are Oregonians, Northwesteners, Cascadians; they value their city as much for where it is as for what it is, and this powerful sense of place nurtures a distinctive civic culture. Tracing the ways in which Portlanders have talked and thought about their city, Abbott reveals the tensions between their diverse visions of the future and plans for development.

Most citizens of Portland desire a balance between continuity and change, one that supports urban progress but actively monitors its effects on the region's expansive green space and on the community's culture. This strong civic participation in city planning and politics is what gives greater Portland its unique character, a positive setting for class integration, neighborhood revitalization, and civic values. The result, Abbott confirms, is a region whose unique initiatives remain a model of American urban planning.

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
This stunning historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West was a major New York Times bestseller.

In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.

S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.

Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.

The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne’s exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.

Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the “White Squaw” who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.

S. C. Gwynne’s account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history.
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