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Utah Historians and the Reconstruction of…

Utah Historians and the Reconstruction of Western History

by Gary Topping

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History professor, Gary Topping examines the work of the most prominent historians of Utah in the past century: (1) Bernard DeVoto http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/d/DEVOTO,BERNARD.html (2) Dale Morgan http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/dalemorgan/daletitle.htm (3) Juanita Brooks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juanita_Brooks (4) Wallace Stegner http://wallacestegner.org/ and (5) Fawn McKay Brodie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fawn_M._Brodie A few decades ago this would not have been a book that I would have sought to read, but today it held my attention and expanded my understandings of Western history. I am likely interested because I have read several titles by these authors. The unique stories of Utah history also intrigue me. This well-researched volume looks at each subject's life and their writings and does not gloss over any limitations and failings. The historiography combines historical, biographical, and cultural analysis to provide a grounded appraisal that combines criticism and admiration. (lj) ( )
  eduscapes | Apr 21, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0806135611, Hardcover)

Among historians of Utah and the American West, few names have greater resonance than Bernard DeVoto, Dale Morgan, Juanita Brooks, Wallace Stegner, and Fawn Brodie. Each of these writers made enduring contributions not only to our knowledge of the American West but also to our view of the region and its history. In many ways their writing set the standard for scholarship and interpretation, and their influence is still felt today.

Yet they were not flawless. As Gary Topping explains in this, the first comprehensive appraisal of their work, each had serious shortcomings. DeVoto and Stegner, master storytellers, distorted their histories with excessive use of literary and artistic techniques; Morgan, the thorough researcher, failed to see larger contexts and interpretive possibilities; Brooks, courageous in finding damning new information on the Mountain Meadows massacre, stopped short of drawing conclusions that might alienate her from her fellow Mormons; and Brodie, psychobiographer extraordinaire, nonetheless succumbed to reading too much into the lives of her subjects based on her own emotions and conflicts.

All five writers experienced Mormon Utah in the formative stages of their lives and, whether they wanted to or not, fashioned their work on the American West under that indelible influence. Topping shows ultimately how, despite weaknesses, each created exemplary models of diligent research and narrative elegance while establishing new traditions in western historical scholarship.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:41 -0400)

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