Roundtable: Travel Literature of American West

April 16th, Faculty Club
12:00 noon

Led by William Wagner

The third Bancroft Round Table of the Spring Semester will take place on Thursday, April 16th, in the Lewis-Latimer Room, Faculty Club at noon. Bancroft Study Award winner William Wagner will give a talk entitled “To Grow Up with the Country: Pioneers, Personal Narrative, and Historical Memory.”

"In all societies there are off-casts," J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur wrote in 1782, "this impure part serves as our precursors or pioneers." Like many of his contemporaries, Crèvecoeur saw the pioneer as a liminal and antisocial figure whose shiftless lifestyle illustrated the dangers of excessive geographical mobility. Over the next century, however, this American archetype would receive a cultural makeover, emerging as a symbol of perseverance, enterprise, and self-made masculinity. This talk will examine the proliferation of pioneer narratives during the antebellum period and explore how the production, circulation, and preservation of these texts contributed to changing ideas about westward movement, social mobility, and masculinity in nineteenth-century America.

Since our society celebrates mobility and reveres such highly transient men as David Crockett and Daniel Boone as national heroes, it is of vast interest to learn how ordinary Americans thought (and wrote) about their role as pioneers during this critical period of westward expansion. The campus community is invited to join us at this informal event and hear Mr. Wagner’s reflections on the topic. Bancroft Round Tables aim to highlight the varied resources our library offers to students of our world and its history.