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A New SignificanceRe-Envisioning the History of the American West$
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Clyde A. Milner

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780195100471

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195100471.001.0001

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Cultural Filters: The Significance of Perception

Cultural Filters: The Significance of Perception

(p.175) 6 Cultural Filters: The Significance of Perception
A New Significance

Anne F. Hyde

Oxford University Press

The geographic region of the American West has done much to shape the culture and character of the United States. Conversely, the culture and character of the United States has reshaped much of the western landscape. Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the West molded American culture because it was a frontier, a meeting ground between savagery and civilization. This chapter argues instead that the American West has shaping power because of its unique geography and not necessarily because it was or is a frontier. Its significance comes from the fact that in a certain part of the American continent, particularly the lands west of the one hundredth meridian, Anglo Americans came up against a series of landscapes that defied their notions about utility and beauty. The region's strange appearance, combined with national expectations about its uses, created a volatile mixture of geography and culture. These shifting perceptions reflected the ways in which American culture defined itself—and this is the significance of perception in the history of the American West.

Keywords:   Frederick Jackson Turner, American West, culture, geography, frontier, United States, power, history, Anglo Americans, utility

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