Traces of Gold: California's Natural Resources and the Claim by Professor Nicolas S. Witschi

By Professor Nicolas S. Witschi

Broadening our figuring out of what constitutes "realism," Nicolas Witschi artfully demonstrates the linkage of yank literary realism to the texts, myths, and assets of the yankee West. From Gold Rush romances to cowboy Westerns, from hard-boiled detective thrillers to nature writing, the yank West has lengthy been identified as a rule via hackneyed representations in well known genres. yet a detailed examine the literary historical past of the West finds a few writers who declare that their works signify the "real" West. As Nicolas Witschi indicates, writers as various as Bret Harte, John Muir, Frank Norris, Mary Austin, and Raymond Chandler have used claims of textual realism to interact, reflect, or problem quite often held assumptions in regards to the West, whereas traditionally said realists like William Dean Howells and Mark Twain have frequently trusted genre-derived impressions concerning the area. The popular organization of the West with nature and the "great outdoor" signifies that lifestyles within the West provides an unambiguous courting with an unalloyed, non-human, actual nature. yet via a mix of textual scholarship, style feedback, and materialist cultural stories, Witschi complicates this inspiration of huge open areas and unfettered chance. The West has been the first resource of uncooked fabrics for American business and fiscal growth, particularly among the California Gold Rush and international struggle II, and Witschi argues that the writers he examines exist in the intersections of cultural and fabric modes of construction. lifelike depictions of Western nature, he concludes, needs to depend on the illustration of the extraction of fabric assets like minerals, water, and oil. With its forays into ecocriticism and cultural stories, lines of Gold will entice scholars and students of yankee literature, American reports, and western history. 

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Now, I raised the price of “North Ophir” from $13 a foot to $45 a foot, to-day, & and they gave me ¤ve feet. That will go the way of all the rest. I shall probably mislay it or throw it in my trunk & never get a dollar out of it. (Letters 1: 259–60) Clemens’s possession of numerous mine “feet” provides the credit that makes him a relatively rich man, despite the fact that he has not yet taken the time to cash in on any of his stockholdings. Despite its likely exaggerations and rather cavalier tone, Clemens’s letter rather accurately indicates the degree to which Comstock fortunes were paper fortunes, banked on the speculative promise of soon-to-be-realized material wealth.

And the Gold Rush narrative is apologetic to the extent that most of its authors felt compelled to caution their readers with disclaimers regarding the frank description of dif¤cult or brutal conditions and a lack of “literary” qualities in the prose. Most importantly, Gold Rush authors relied on the realist’s strategy of invoking a crisis of representation. Positioning their own works as much-needed correctives to earlier, ostensibly inaccurate written versions of what “seeing the elephant” had been like, they issued a claim to realism that hinged most basically on the idea that someone, themselves, had ¤nally gotten it right.

With respect to Clappe, Delano, and Harte, the hoax depicts both the physical trauma of mining and the beginnings of the erasure of that trauma from narratives of value. The points on which the social, political, aesthetic, cultural, and eco- You are reading copyrighted material published by the University of Alabama Press. S. Copyright law is illegal and injures the author and publisher. For permission to reuse this work, contact the University of Alabama Press. 34 / Bret Harte and Gold Rush Realism nomic relations of Twain’s real-world setting are founded are also those on which Twain hangs his story.

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