Picturing a Different West:
Vision, Illustration, and the Tradition of Cather and Austin.
By Janis P. Stout. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2007. 352 pages. 7 b/w photos, 69 b/w images, notes, and bibliog. ISBN 089672610X $40.00 http://www.ttup.ttu.edu/ Texas A & M University scholar, Janis Stout, offers students of alternative literary and art history the opportunity to find an absorbing exploration of Mary H. Austin and Willa Cather and by extension both women and the American experience.It’s a window to Western topography for understanding rather than its immediate use in the usual male stereotype of physical exploitation. Austin’s and Cather’s perception of the West was indirect by their seeing of printed illustrative matter and indirectly by their direct, first-hand sight.
Their mental processing, their own written narrative describing the environment, and their influences on illustrator selection, the actual illustrations, and page design all “informed a new literary tradition – that of an ungendered American West … not feminine so much as androgynous.”Here, Stout sees the West as a physical place rather than a geopolitical condition. She finds three important focal points:·
1) Austin and Cather’s personal experience of the West·
2) Art and illustration in the book-making experience·
3) Their revision of gender assumptions
For this volume Stout’s stimulation rose from her recognition of similarities of illustrations in Austin’s Land of Little Rain and Cather’s My Antonia. From there, she draws on many titles and dozens of authors.
Among the principals are the elders Elsie Clews Parsons, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Laura Gilpin, and the newer hands Leslie Marmon Silko, Margaret Randall and Barbara Byers. Stout clarifies that women see and do things differently, although not all the time.