“Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” Continues with: ‘The Way West’ Oct. 10

The Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma book discussion series at Oklahoma City University will return in September with the theme The American Frontier: A Pulitzer Prize Centennial Series. The discussions are held at 7:00 p.m. in Walker Center room 151, located near the center of campus at N.W. 26th Street and Florida Avenue.

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, Oklahoma City University

The series theme features five Pulitzer Prize-nominated or -winning books that explore the concept of the frontier in the United States. Turner, 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.

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, backwoods settlers, tribal leaders, 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.

At each session in the five-part series, a humanities scholar makes a presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussions follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, all participants come together for a brief wrap-up.

Those who are interested in participating are encouraged to preregister and borrow the reading selections by dropping by the Dulaney-Browne Library room 207.