"Epiphany In The Wilderness" On Thursday's Access Utah
In her new book, “Epiphany in the Wilderness: Hunting, Nature, and Performance in the Nineteenth-Century American West,” historian Karen Jones uses the metaphor of the theater to argue that the West was a crucial stage that framed the performance of the American character as an independent, resourceful, resilient, and rugged individual.
The leading actor was the all-conquering masculine hunter hero, the sharpshooting man of the wilderness who tamed and claimed the West with each provident step. Women were also a significant part of the story, treading the game trails as plucky adventurers and resilient homesteaders and acting out their exploits in autobiographical accounts and stage shows.
Epiphany in the Wilderness informs various academic debates surrounding the frontier period, including the construction of nature as a site of personal challenge, gun culture, gender adaptations and the crafting of the masculine wilderness hero figure, wildlife management and consumption, memorializing and trophy-taking, and the juxtaposition of a closing frontier with an emerging conservation movement.
Karen R. Jones is a historian of the American West with particular interests in nineteenth-century cultural and environmental history. Her books include Wolf Mountains: The History of Wolves along the Great Divide, The Invention of the Park, and The American West: Competing Visions. She was awarded the James Bradley Fellowship at the Montana Historical Society for her research on hunting and conservation in late nineteenth-century Montana and has earned fellowships at the Autry National Center and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center for projects on horses and war in the nineteenth century and on taxidermy and the “afterlife” of hunted animals.
Karen Jones is Senior Lecturer in the School of History at the University of Kent.