Winner of the Western Literature Association’s Thomas J. Lyon Award
Whether as tourist's paradise, countercultural destination, or site of native resistance, the American Southwest has functioned as an Anglo cultural fantasy for more than a century. In Translating Southwestern Landscapes, Audrey Goodman excavates this fantasy to show how the Southwest emerged as a symbolic space from 1880 through the early decades of the twentieth century.
Drawing on sources as diverse as regional magazines and modernist novels, Pueblo portraits and New York exhibits, Goodman has crafted a wide-ranging history that explores the invention, translation, and representation of the Southwest. Its principal players include amateur ethnographer Charles Lummis, who conflated the critical work of cultural translation; pulp novelist Zane Grey, whose bestselling novels defined the social meanings of the modern West; fashionable translator Mary Austin, whose "re-expressions" of Indian song are contrasted with recent examples of ethnopoetics; and modernist author Willa Cather, who demonstrated an immaterial feeling for landscape from the Nebraska Plains to Acoma Pueblo.
Goodman shows how these writers—as well as photographers such as Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, and Alex Harris—exhibit different phases of the struggle between an Anglo calling to document Native and Hispanic difference and America's larger drive toward imperial mastery. In critiquing photographic representations of the Southwest, she argues that commercial interests and eastern prejudices boiled down the experimental images of the late nineteenth century to a few visual myths: the persistence of wilderness, the innocence of early portraiture, and the purity of empty space.
An ambitious synthesis of criticism and anthropology, art history and geopolitical theory, Translating Southwestern Landscapes names the defining contradictions of America's most recently invented cultural space. It shows us that the Southwest of these early visitors is the only Southwest most of us have ever known.