True West


True West

Authenticity and the American West

Edited by William R. Handley and Nathaniel Lewis

Postwestern Horizons Series

372 pages
28 photos, 1 illustration, index


May 2007


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In no other region of the United States has the notion of authenticity played such an important yet elusive role as it has in the West. Though pervasive in literature, popular culture, and history, assumptions about western authenticity have not received adequate critical attention. Given the ongoing economic and social transformations in this vast region, the persistent nostalgia and desire for the “real” authentic West suggest regional and national identities at odds with themselves. True West explores the concept of authenticity as it is used to invent, test, advertise, and read the West.

The fifteen essays collected here apply contemporary critical and cultural theory to western literary history, Native American literature and identities, the visual West, and the imagining of place. Ranging geographically from the Canadian Prairies to Buena Park’s Entertainment Corridor in Southern California, and chronologically from early tourist narratives to contemporary environmental writing, True West challenges many assumptions we make about western writing and opens the door to an important new chapter in western literary history and cultural criticism.

Author Bio

William R. Handley is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Marriage, Violence, and Nation in the American Literary West. Nathaniel Lewis is an associate professor of English at Saint Michael’s College and the author of Unsettling the Literary West: Authenticity and Authorship (Nebraska 2003).


True West reminds us that the relentless search for authenticity is a quest for something that is elusive—and perhaps wholly illusory.”—Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review

True West is a herald of change in the air—a promise of a regenerated critical assault on literature that may be western but is also among the finest being produced in English today, and to be valued for that as much or more than for its regional provenance.”—Lee Clark Mitchell, Western American Literature

“The approaches as well as the topics are wide-ranging, up-to-date, and presented in innovative ways. . . . I find True West among the most provocative collections I recently have read. I recommend it highly.”—Ann Ronald, Western Historical Quarterly

“At last, William Handley and Nathaniel Lewis have tackled the slippery slope of what authenticity means to the West. . . . [An] excellent first work in the daunting task of exploring the deep interweaving between authenticity and our frontier origins.”—Kevin Britz, Journal of Arizona History

“The fifteen essays in this outstanding collection clarify how authenticity has functioned in cultural and literary settings. Instead of simply distinguishing the ‘fake’ from the ‘authentic,’ they explore the nature and consequences of quests for and claims to authenticity. Readers interested in the Great Plains will find rewarding essays on literature, environment, and the uses of American Indian history. . . . Thematically tight and imaginatively broad, a testament to the skill and vision of its editors. An extensive bibliography enhances its usefulness for scholars.”—Ellen Baker, Great Plains Quarterly

Also of Interest