The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985

Book Reviews

Further, a remarkable agility in handling documentary sources is
demonstrated by this self-admitted parvenu to the colonial period.
In the last third of Water in the Hispanic Southwest, Meyer very
clearly has taken pains to make intelligible the legal administration of
water. He explains not only the multitudinous and often contradictory
laws on the books, but also the considerable latitude available to local
officials in interpreting those laws. He also enters the labyrinthian
realm of Spanish justice regarding colonial exploitation, preferential
treatment, and the common good. The explanations Meyer offers are
articulately expressed and convincingly documented. Although his
work is not likely to be the last word on the subject--more likely it
will stimulate more and more words-it is a most worthy, noble, and
commendable summary of a historical topic with many practical
applications.
County Museum of Natural History JANET R. FIREMAN
Los Angeles
The Land before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Fron-
tiers, 63o-r86o. By Annette Kolodny. (Chapel Hill: The Uni-
versity of North Carolina Press, 1984. Pp. xix+293. Preface, ac-
knowledgments, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $28.oo,
cloth; $9.95, paper.)
Annette Kolodny has selectively perused 230go years of the writings
of American women to show the "sequence of fantasies through which
generations of women came to know and act upon the westward-
moving frontier" (p. xii). Because fantasy often opens the door to
action in the real world, Kolodny restates what we already know: an
idealized vision of a new world-and all that it connotes in terms of a
better life, more freedom, greater economic opportunity and, of course,
the desire for ownership of land-has been at the center of our na-
tion's westward movement.
Mastery and dominance over the land were male fantasies that led
them ever westward, Kolodny asserts. Most often, the wives and daugh-
ters of these men followed because they were bound by love and
family-not because they shared the same idealized vision of the fron-
tier. How, then, did American women view the new landscapes of the
frontier? "Women claimed the frontier as a potential sanctuary for an
idealized domesticity," claims Kolodny (p. xiii). She believes that
women saw the frontier as a garden to be cultivated, with a home and
community of family and friends in a peaceful, parklike setting.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/. Accessed October 24, 2014.