Haunting : from postwesterns to postmodern historiographies
Hanson, Daniel Lee
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The postmodern era has issued a challenge to either/or binary structures and the hegemonic master narratives built upon them. Within American Studies, the sub discipline of postwestern studies recognizes the effects of this postmodern turn through the emergence of 'ghost westerns.' These film and literary expressions reveal the manner in which spectral manifestations interrupt the narrative of American exceptionalism housed within the Western genre by privileging previously marginalized voices and confounding a binary reality. This thesis examines the functionality of haunting from its Gothic Enlightenment origins to its emergence within the genre of the West with a specific focus on a postwestern awareness of these ghost Westerns. However, to further privilege the trope, and to further disrupt the real v. the imagined binary, haunting is also taken outside of the 'Western frame,' as postwestern scholars have called it, and applied to several contemporary post-Civil War historiographies. Because historians are also navigating the postmodern 'turn,' many of the same cultural and epistemological hegemonies scrutinized by postwestern scholars are also evident within contemporary historiographies. By illustrating how contemporary historians are 'haunted' by these same cultural structures, spectrality becomes an interdisciplinary tool which aides a postmodern America confronting its 'exceptional' identity and the binary epistemological structure which enables such hegemonic narratives.