Inventing Destiny

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

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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.

About the Author

Jimmy L. Bryan Jr. is associate professor of history at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He is the author of, most recently, The American Elsewhere: Adventure and Manliness in the Age of Expansion, also from Kansas.