Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," GEORGIA REVIEW 35 (1981) 307-17

1981

Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," GEORGIA REVIEW 35 (1981) 307-17

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As compared with "Eastern" autobiography, which is "old worldly" and self-consciously literary, "Western" autobiography depends upon the contrast with "Indian-ness." Boone's "autobiography" is the earliest of a tradition that includes autobiographies of Crockett (A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF DAVID CROCKETT OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF [1834]), Carson (KIT CARSON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY [1859]), Houston (THE LIFE OF SAM HOUSTON [1855]), Beckwourth (THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF JAMES P. BECKWOURTH [1856]), Cody (THE LIFE OF HON. WILLIAM F. CODY KNOWN AS BUFFALO BILL THE FAMOUS HUNTER, SCOUT, AND GUIDE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY [1879]). These books "owe a depb to the first indigenous forms of American 'history' writing: the Indian War Narrative and the Indian Captivity Narrative. In comparison to the European or the Easterner, the figures of Western autobiography seem to be 'Indians' themselves -- men of action not letters; hunters and warriors, not preachers or farmers; neither bookkeepers nor book-writers. In many cases nearly or wholly illiterate, they refuse to accept the act of writing as the mark of manhood and civilization, and they balk at cultivating either the field or the page. The Western autobiographer does not settle down long enough to establish his text in writing, which, as an act, he largely scorns; he invokes instead the 'natural,' 'oral' tradition of the Indian, telling COUP stories or tall tales, shooting off his mouth like his gun, soberly reciting his part in the 'history' of the nation with which he indentifies, or even acting it out upon the stage. Unlike the Eastern autobiographer who creates his life by composing it, the Western autobiographer lives his life apart from writing, going so far as to entrust its actual inscription to another." (KRUPAT1:310-11) AUTOBIOGRAPHY

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    Project: Digitizing Daniel Boone
    Creator: Faragher, John Mack
    ID: 27-40-20278-25633
    Permanent Link: https://sourcenotes.miamioh.edu/id?27-40-20278-25633


1981

Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," GEORGIA REVIEW 35 (1981) 307-17

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Boone may have held the same orthographical and grammatological theory as Crockett, who wrote: "I despise this way of spelling contrary to nature -- and as for grammar, it's pretty much a thing of nothing at last, after all the fuss that's made about it." (KRUPAT1:quoted 311) LITERACY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

File: KRPT1.NT1



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    Project: Digitizing Daniel Boone
    Creator: Faragher, John Mack
    ID: 27-40-20278-25634
    Permanent Link: https://sourcenotes.miamioh.edu/id?27-40-20278-25634


1981

Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," GEORGIA REVIEW 35 (1981) 307-17

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But the BOOK of a man's life cannot be made strictly according to "nature," it required, then, "collaborative composition, where the 'empirical,' 'natural,' or 'historical' 'facts' of a man's life are the contribution of the nominal subject of the book, while its 'artifactuality,' its 'grammar,' and the actual 'writing' of it are the contribution of some other. Thus there is really no 'author' of a Western autobiography -- or, rather, there are always two 'authors,' in the strict and double etymology of that word ('author' -- from AUGERE, to augment as well as to originate). (KRUPAT1:311) AUTOBIOGRAPHY

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    Project: Digitizing Daniel Boone
    Creator: Faragher, John Mack
    ID: 27-40-20278-25635
    Permanent Link: https://sourcenotes.miamioh.edu/id?27-40-20278-25635


1981

Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," GEORGIA REVIEW 35 (1981) 307-17

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"With Western autobioraphy . . . the rejection of writing has the consequence of submitting every aspect of the work to the discursive 'givens' of its period; there is no question, here, of going 'against the grain' of 'history.' Thus, the self presented in Western autobiography is of the pre-individualist, epic sort; Boone, Crockett, Carson, Beckwourth, Houston, and Cody are all heroes of the community. Despite their closeness to the Indian, ther are wholeheartedly loyal to white 'civilization.' Despite their legendary fame, they do not present themselves as distinctive personalities -- as DIFFERENT in the sense associated with Rousseau -- but as representative and immediately recognizable American types: the stalwart pioneer in Boone's case, the country cutup or shrewd bumpkin in Crockett's. For Carson and Beckwourth it is the Indian-like mountain man 'true to his race,' while Houston, author of Texas, constructs the image of father-of-his-country -- 'Washington on the Brazos' -- and Cody's self-presentation is primarily that of the good scout." (KRUPAT1:313) AUTOBIOGRAPHY

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    Project: Digitizing Daniel Boone
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    ID: 27-40-20278-25636
    Permanent Link: https://sourcenotes.miamioh.edu/id?27-40-20278-25636


1981

Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," GEORGIA REVIEW 35 (1981) 307-17

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"The structure of Western autobiography strictly follows the 'emplotment' (in Hayden White's term) of American history as the nineteenth century generally conceived it, for each is the story of the inevitable triumph of 'civilization' over 'savagery.' Western autobiography, therefore, is always structured as 'comedy,' and progresses firmly toward a 'happy ending,' where justice prevails." [Here Krupat points to the end of Filson's narrative: "I now live in peace and safety . . . I esteem a sufficient reward for all my toil and dangers."] (KRUPAT1:314) AUTOBIOGRAPHY

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    Project: Digitizing Daniel Boone
    Creator: Faragher, John Mack
    ID: 27-40-20278-25637
    Permanent Link: https://sourcenotes.miamioh.edu/id?27-40-20278-25637


1981

Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," GEORGIA REVIEW 35 (1981) 307-17

Keywords
None.
People
None.

"The function of these works is to support and sustain the 'savagist' view of the meaning of American 'history' by demonstrating that the 'happy ending' for the heroic individual's life is the same as that projected for the nation's collective life, and that both consist in the triumph of the 'civilized' 'government' of men over the 'savage' anarchy of nature's children. It is in the verty form of these works that their commitment to the dominant social ideology of their peiod is most intensely reflected." (KRUPAT1:316) AUTOBIOGRAPHY

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    Project: Digitizing Daniel Boone
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    ID: 27-40-20278-25638
    Permanent Link: https://sourcenotes.miamioh.edu/id?27-40-20278-25638














    

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