Date

2012

Department or Program

American Studies

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Ryan Quintana

Abstract

This work examines the processes by which whiteness and masculinity are producing in popular culture westerns, and engages that cultural work with its historical context. I examine the early institutional history of the Texas Rangers in the light of new scholarship on Texas Native American groups, especially the Comanche, and expose the myth-making inherent in the organization’s earliest history. Close readings of two specific Westerns that focus on Texas Ranger figures, Nelson Lee’s Three Years Among the Comanche and Zane Grey’s The Lone Star Ranger, further explicate later historical processes. Lee’s falsified memoir is placed in the broader national context of Westward expansion leading up to the Civil War, and Grey’s novel is put in dialogue with Theodore Roosevelt’s contemporaneous manipulation of Western ideologies in service of American imperialism. Taken together, the cultural work that Westerns and Texas Ranger figures do is clarified and contextualized--especially their role in supporting constructions of race, gender, and class. In this way, early Western fiction shows the fiction of the whiteness and masculinity espoused by the Texas Rangers.

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