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Additional info for Beyond the Frontier: Writers, Western Regionalism, and a Sense of Place

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But the greater shock comes when West unites the art with the reality. Truth is destruction; destruction, truth. The overwhelming irony is that destruction is the truth of the frontier dream. This is Nathanael West's eschatological vision, one that both Mark Twain and Henry Adams had shared half a century earlier. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and The Education of Henry Adams are works of eschatology. They contain more than a mere longing for the past, so unmistakable in Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa, for example.

As Turner explained in “Problems in American History” (1892), the frontier maps he studied in Scribner's Statistical Atlas revealed clues to a frontier dynamism. ” Here was the frontier made synonymous with movement, expansion, evolution. ” Out of what Turner called “inert” nature grew a society, a nation, a civilization, all of it a mighty drama unfolding from east to west. What he saw happening on the frontier was the process of civilization—of a people transforming the elemental into the complex, the wild into the cultured, the primitive into the civilized.

10 What this lofty idealism meant for himself, an outsetting historian, Turner was not long in announcing. In “The Significance of History”—the first of his great essays written after he rejoined the University of Wisconsin faculty in 1891—he set virtually no limits to his task and duty. Nothing less than the “self-consciousness of humanity” was to be his high calling, and in this calling he would summon not only the invocation of the church (Sursum corda, “lift up your hearts”) but all the “interpretative power” a historian can bring to his work.

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