The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986 Page: 444
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Texans, and are keys to understanding the urban and industrial devel-
opment of this protean state.'
The Defense of the Fantasy
In the service of myth Texas distorts its history. The intoxicating feats
of Texas's patriotic history, focused around frontier experiences, are
more effective than objective history in molding the consciousness of
Texas citizens. Seldom has a state fed so avariciously on image and
memory as opposed to image and reality. Although having little more
authentication than lay opinion and "told a thousand times by as many
people," this caique of memories, with its emphasis on past lore, shapes,
codifies, and nurtures the spirit that so animates Texans. It is this his-
torical experience of the wilderness that sustains and motivates the
Texan's behavior, provides the state with a perceptible color, and gives
shape to the Texan's idea of self. Since civilization requires the conquest
of the wilderness, Texans severed themselves from the very essence that
gave them substance.2
Why do Texas writers side with the apocrypha of Texas? Though
weighted with myth, a bulldog renown grips this frontier literature, be
it the fiction of Ben Capps, A. B. Guthrie, Americo Paredes, J. Frank
Dobie, and James Michener, or the explanations of frontier people and
nature offered by Walter Prescott Webb and Roy Bedichek. It is a popu-
lar white-male-only history, told by a celebrated breed of writers who
build myths, villains, and heroes into a Disneyland image of yesterday's
Texas, and who balloon trivia into significant historiography. Such his-
tory is a flourishing industry in the state, even though deflated by the
factual data of professional historians.
A written history that is the product of negligence and hypocrisy
provides the unfortunate misconception that the state evolved through
the energies of a few men and, by negating the contribution of women,
minorities, and children, continues to reinforce the perennial and dis-
figuring inclination to sexual, racial, and paternal oppression. Given
Texas's burgeoning minority populations, such literature will become
'Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (New York, 1973); Frank Kermode, "Westward
Ho," London Review of Books, Feb. 7, 1985, p. 6 (quotation); Asa Briggs, Victorian City (London,
1963), 92; David Cannadine, review of Anthony Sutcliffe (ed.), Metropolis, 1890o-94o (Lon-
don, 1984), Times Literary Supplement, Apr. 13, 1984, p. 411.
2Donald L. Weismann, Some Folks Went West (Austin, 1960), Foreword by Walter Prescott
3Don Graham, James W. Lee, and William T. Pilkington (eds.), The Texas Literary Tradition:
Fiction, Folklore, History (Austin, 1983). For a precis of this symposium see Clifford Endress,
"Texas Literature: The Twists and Turns of an Enigmatic Tradition," The Texas Humanist, V
(July/Aug., 1983), 3-15.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986, periodical, 1985/1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/m1/514/: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.