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Maverick Autobiographies: Women Writers and the American West, 1900-1940 written by Cathryn Halverson

 

Maverick Autobiographies: Women Writers and the American West, 1900-1940 written by Cathryn Halverson

Overview:

    In contrast to the traditional frontiers and pioneers focus of western studies, Maverick Autobiographies looks at women writers who came not to but from the West. Telling three larger-than-life stories, Cathryn Halverson offers an alternative history of American women’s autobiography and a new view of western women’s literature. Mary MacLane, Opal Whiteley, and Juanita Harrison, she argues, rewrote frontier myths to make a space for themselves as female iconoclasts from the West. Creating an ardent readership for western women’s "naked" desires, they became best-selling celebrity authors.  After their intense early fame, though, they virtually disappeared. Halverson examines why, and brings their texts back to light through a richly textured weaving of biography, literary analysis, and cultural history—in the process, urging us to reformulate our notions of what it means to be a "western writer."
    Mary MacLane, author of The Story of Mary MacLane (1902) and I, Mary MacLane (1917) became a national celebrity at age nineteen by describing the longing and discontent she felt in the "uncouth, warped, Montana town" of Butte.  Opal Whiteley mixed nature writing, fantasy, and mysticism in her diary of growing up near an Oregon lumber camp, The Story of Opal: Journal of an Understanding Heart (1920). Juanita Harrison, a working-class traveler who claimed Los Angeles as her home, dramatized in My Great, Wide, Beautiful World (1936), the racial transformations she finessed during an epic around-the-world journey.

Synopsis:

Turning away from the pioneers in covered wagons who populate most studies of western women, Halverson (English, Kobe City College of Foreign Studies) examines three iconoclastic autobiographers who came from, rather than to, the West. Halverson argues that Mary MacLane, Opal Whiteley and Juanita Harrison rewrote frontier myths to make a space for themselves. Halverson uses biography, literary analysis and cultural history to investigate these autobiographies and in the process reformulates the notion of a "western writer." Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

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Title: Maverick Autobiographies: Women Writers and the American West, 1900-1940

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