Cultural Explorations of US Expansion
Edited by Jimmy L. Bryan, Jr.
The mythmakers of US expansion have expressed “manifest destiny” in many different ways—and so have its many discontents. A multidisciplinary study that delves into these contrasts and contradictions, Inventing Destiny offers a broad yet penetrating cultural history of nineteenth-century US territorial acquisition—a history that gives voice to the underrepresented actors who significantly complicated US narratives of empire, from Native Americans and Anglo-American women to anti- and non-national expansionists.
The contributors—established and emerging scholars from history, American studies, literary studies, art history, and religious studies—make use of source materials and techniques as various as artwork, religion, geospatial analysis, interior colonialism, and storytelling alongside fresh readings of traditional historical texts. In doing so, they seek to illuminate the complexities rather than simplify, to transgress borders rather than redraw them, and to amplify the under-told stories rather than repeat the old ones. Their work identifies and explores the obscure—or obscured—fictions of expansion, seeking a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of culture creation and recognizing those who resisted US territorial aggrandizement.
“In the most important rethinking of US imperialism and expansionism since Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease’s Cultures of United States Imperialism in 1993, Inventing Destiny: Cultural Explorations of US Expansion provides a complex, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional reconsideration of Manifest Destiny. Moving readers beyond the simplistic narrative of expansionism, the essays in this collection challenge the notion that there is anything simple about Manifest Destiny or American imperialism. Instead, they compellingly demonstrate that seemingly simple rhetorical devices like Manifest Destiny emerge from a complicated network of cultural contexts and represent competing agendas, ideals, and goals.’”
—Gregory Eiselein, Professor and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar Department of English, Kansas State University
“Readers hoping to learn more about the culture of US expansion need look no further than this compelling interdisciplinary collection. The essays inInventing Destiny offer fresh perspectives on the contested nature of territorial conquests across the North American continent.”
—Amy S. Greenberg, author of A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico
“Taking a creative, multidisciplinary approach to the study of American westward expansion, Inventing Destiny challenges scholars to think about the cultural driving forces—including art, literature, gender, and religion—behind the rapid transformation of the nations nineteenth-century frontier.”
—William S. Kiser, author of Coast-to-Coast Empire: Manifest Destiny and the New Mexico Borderlands
“These eclectic, indeed kaleidoscopic, essays take the story of America’s territorial growth from the Early Republic to the Gilded Age in fresh directions. They reveal we can learn as much about the impulses and limits of US expansion from capsule biographies and microscopic and interdisciplinary analyses of obscure texts, maps, artistic renderings and incidents, as we can learn from the machinations of political leaders and diplomats and the victories and setbacks of national armies. Editor Jimmy Bryan and his fellow authors collectively provide a fascinating cultural take not only on the saga of Americas “Manifest Destiny” on its western and southern borderlands, but also on the particular roles of women and marginalized peoples—especially Native Americans, African Americans, and Mormons—within that process. This volume should appeal to anyone tempted to delve beyond commonplace narratives of nineteenth-century America’s thrust westward and southward.”
—Robert E. May, author of Slavery, Race, and Conquest in the Tropics: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Future of Latin America
“The disciplinary range on display in these essays is impressive, and the collection shows that while manifest destiny was an expression of domination, no one group dominated the creation of the discourse. The book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the American West and the American nation.”
—Jon T. Coleman, author of Vicious: Wolves and Men in AmericaSee fewer reviews...
In sum, Inventing Destiny demonstrates the value of cross-disciplinary approaches to the study of the multiple rationales, critiques, interventions, and contingencies of nineteenth-century US expansion.