Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Committee Member
Number of Pages
In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner published his famous thesis, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." The thesis, as well as his subsequent writings, established the groundwork for the dialogue on the American West. That groundwork essentially captured western history as the relationship between seen and unseen forces. Implicit in Turner's work was a structural model for how visible and invisible worlds interacted with one another. When one examines the work of later scholars like Henry Nash Smith who shifted away from Turner's synthesis, it becomes apparent that there was more underpinning Smith's dissent than simply a disagreement regarding historical facts. What had actually changed was the structural model for how the two worlds intermingled. This paradigm shift for the dialectic between seen and unseen forces was at the root of the move away from Turner. The new paradigm was entirely incompatible with Turner's model. In time, the new paradigm was adapted as the structural model for what eventually emerged as the New Western history. But in the same way that Henry Nash Smith represented the bridge between two historical era, so too did New Western history. In fact, it signified an ending as well as a beginning. While its adherents still relied on the ironic emphasis in Smith's structural model, they also, step by step, shifted back into a metaphorical mode of explanation that came more and more to resemble Turner's discarded paradigm. With metaphor and irony embroiled in an acute struggle for intellectual dominance, it was only a matter of time before a full-blown neo-Turnerian revolution would be well underway.
American; Frederick Jackson Turner; Hayden White; Henry Nash Smith; Metahistory; Smith, Henry Nash; Turner, Frederick Jackson; West; White, Hayden
United States, West; United States; History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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Shepherd, Don Franklin, "The metahistory of the American West" (2001). UNLV Retrospective Theses & Dissertations. 2476.