Looking West

Front Cover
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999 - History - 240 pages

The American West is a region, perhaps more than any other in the United States, that comes to us in visual terms. The grand landscapes, open vistas, and magisterial views have made the act of looking a defining feature of how we experience the West as an actual place. In Looking West, John D. Dorst examines a largely neglected pattern of seeing that stands in contrast to the universally familiar iconography.

When we engage in the act of looking, contends Dorst, we inevitably do so according to historically determined patterns—"discourses of seeing." It is a central premise of Looking West that over roughly the last one hundred years the American West, both as a physical location and as an imagined place, has been an important laboratory for the production of modern visual discourses.

Through a series of Western texts—folkloric, photographic, literary, and historical—Dorst outlines another pattern of looking West, one characterized by optical distortion, faulty vision, and the ambiguous intersection of spectatorship, display, and covert observation. He applies the insights gained from this analysis of discursive patterns to various cultural displays located in the contemporary West. In a series of ethnographic case studies—two folk art displays, a Western heritage theme park, and Devils Tower National Monument—he shows how this other discourse plays out at actual sites and institutions.

Dorst offers an account of visual practices that, though dressed in the images and narratives of the American West, are in fact characteristic of our modern consumer culture in general. This interdisciplinary combination of discursive analysis with ethnographic observation and material culture interpretation makes Looking West an original contribution to the fields of visual culture studies, American studies, and Western studies.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

List of Figures
1
Figures
16
Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody 1885
30
An Excursion
40
A Theoretical and Historical
96
Two Cases of Vernacular Display
119
Welded openwork fence Edna and Floyd Young
123
Early fence panel
126
Restored Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary
153
End of tracks town
158
Butch Cassidy prison mugshot
163
Calamity Jane
164
Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum floor plans
169
Fragmented cells gallery
177
Minnie Snyder female inmate
179
Womens section of the prison
180

Late fence panel
127
Ranch house yard display Wyoming
128
Fence detail
134
Mr Jake Dellos
136
Dellos yard display
137
Orchard border with umbrella trees
138
Sunflowers etc
139
Irrigating shovel
140
Organicindustrial hybrid
142
Cannonpost puller
143
Display and Ideology at the Wyoming
150
Julius Greenwald the prison ghost
151
Cell bay with guard cage
184
Fence types at Territorial Park
189
Historical fence and modern privacy screen
191
The Visual Management
192
Devils TowerBear Lodge
194
NPS site map of Devils Tower National Monument
197
Postcard Cheyenne Bear Lodge legend
200
Bear LodgeDevils Tower distant view
203
Legoland Mount Rushmore Denmark
214
Notes
217
Index
235
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1999)

John D. Dorst is Professor of American Studies at the University of Wyoming. He is the author of The Written Suburb: An American Site, An Ethnographic Dilemma, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.