Failed Frontiersmen : White Men and Myth in the Post-Sixties American Historical Romance

James J. Donahue

In Failed Frontiersmen, James Donahue writes that one of the founding and most persistent mythologies of the United States is that of the American frontier. Looking at a selection of twentieth-century American male fiction writers—E. L. Doctorow, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, Gerald Vizenor, and Cormac McCarthy—he shows how they reevaluated the historical romance of frontier mythology in response to the social and political movements of the 1960s (particularly regarding the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the treatment of Native Americans). Although these writers focus on different moments in American history and different geographic locations, the author reveals their commonly held belief that the frontier mythology failed to deliver on its promises of cultural stability and political advancement, especially in the face of the multicultural crucible of the 1960s.