The American Frontier: A Pulitzer Prize Centennial Series
“Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” Series at Oklahoma City University, Fall 2017
Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma (LTAIO) offers more than your average book club. The Oklahoma Humanities Council sponsors the reading program throughout the state, bringing readers together to discuss books on a theme, with the assistance of humanities scholars as facilitators. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 35-45 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders.
Free copies of the books are available to borrow on a first-come/first-served basis, but because of demand, we ask that only those who plan to fully participate in our sessions borrow books.
Books may be picked up this summer during regular business hours Monday-Thursday at OCU’s Dulaney-Browne Library Room 207.
About “The American Frontier”: Around the time Joseph Pulitzer retired from active management of his newspapers, Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932), a young historian at the University of Wisconsin, offered a new interpretation of American History: The Frontier Hypothesis. He asserted the single most important feature of American national development was the westward movement of Anglo American civilization from the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Turner believed this “Frontier” or “Wilderness Experience” produced uniquely American characteristics because settlers constantly rebuilt their institutions as they moved west, each time reducing the influence of their European background. Prior to Turner’s Frontier Hypothesis, historians regarded American development as guided by the unaltered transfer of institutions from Western Europe.
The five books in this series deal with the American Frontier. Although some authors do not embrace all of the Frontier Hypothesis, readers should be able to detect some of Turner’s ideas in the pages of these works. Each of them deals with a significant element of settling the region west of the Appalachian Mountains. Each of the books describes a time period crucial to expansion, and all of the narratives include the role of the individual in this process. European government agents, U.S. officials, tribal leaders, backwoods settlers, women (both Indian and non-Indian), emigrants, speculators, and a cavalcade of well-known as well as not-so-well-known characters portray their experience on the frontier.
All sessions take place in Walker Center, Room 151, beginning at 7:00 PM.
READINGS AND DATES: Fall 2017
September 12: The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (1991), by Richard White
Richard White offers an alternative to the traditional interpretations of Fredrick Jackson Turner known as the “The New Western History.” His purpose is to examine Indian/white relations within the context of accommodation and common purpose rather than conquest and assimilation. Presenting Scholar: Dr. Kurt Lively, Assistant Prof. of History, Tulsa Community College
September 26: Across the Wide Missouri (1947), by Bernard DeVoto
Born in Utah and trained as a journalist, DeVoto wrote many books about the American West, each of them designed for the educated middle class, not professional historians. This book provides a comprehensive history of the Rocky Mountain fur trade and includes examinations of the fur companies, fur trappers and their life style, fur traders and their business methods, as well as American Indian culture and interactions with Anglo-Americans. He inserts the impact of geography, weather, and politics into the era. Presenting Scholar: Dr. Carol Sue Humphrey, Prof. of History, Oklahoma Baptist University
October 10: The Way West (1949) by A.B. Guthrie
The novel The Way West chronicles the lives of a group of emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail in 1846. Dick Summers, chosen as pilot, is a former mountain man who reminisces about a frontier life that no longer exists, before the decimation of beaver and the silencing of the Rendezvous fur-trading fair. Lije Evans is a poster child for Manifest Destiny, a belief that the United States was ordained to spread from ocean to ocean. They and their fellow travelers making the difficult trip are as varied as their reasons for heading to the new frontier: an opportunity to rise to political importance, the chance to be “first come, best served” in business as well as profits, and the hope of saving a child’s life—all strangers bound together to face triumphs and disasters in their determination to make their way west. Presenting Scholar: Dr. Harbour Winn, Prof. Emeritus of English, Oklahoma City University
October 24: Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945), by Linnie Marsh Wolfe
Linne Marsh Wolfe received the Pulitzer Prize posthumously for biography for this book on the life of the well-known conservationist. A librarian and archivist by training, Wolfe became engaged in the life of John Muir while cataloging his papers. She met members of his immediate family, and they urged her to write this book. Marsh offers a comprehensive examination of Muir’s life between 1825-1914, emphasizing how an individual can make a difference and promoting the preservation of the wilderness Presenting Scholar: Dr. Mark Davies, Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics, Oklahoma City University
November 7: The Son (2013), by Philipp Meyer
The Texas frontier entwines with the saga of the McCullough family in Philipp Meyer’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Eli, family patriarch born in the newly formed Texas Republic, recounts at age 100 his life for a WPA recording. His frontier includes Comanches who hold him captive from the age of thirteen to sixteen. Other family members’ perspectives provides storylines via diaries and memories. Although each member of the McCullough family faces different frontiers and struggles, they serve as reminders of the universal challenges in everyday life. Presenting Scholar: Dr. Tracy Floreani, Professor of English, Oklahoma City University