The Great Divide

Matthew Rebhorn

in Pioneer Performances

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199751303
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932559 | DOI:
The Great Divide

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This chapter contrasts two plays, Augustin Daly's Horizon (1871) and Joaquin Miller's The Danites of the Sierras (1881). In the plays examined in preceding chapters, the frontier was both the place where civilization conquered savagery and a fundamental wildness that critiqued America's imperialist ideology. These two visions, which had already become separated in the competing plots of The Octoroon, split completely apart in Daly's and Miller's plays. For Daly, the frontier was a site of memory that needed to be regulated theatrically, and thus he concretized a set of performative practices that systematically erased the “other” in support of imperialism—the same set of practices that helped Buffalo Bill mythologize the Wild West. Daly's memory of the frontier was, however, already just a memory of the frontier, for at the moment of its articulation, it was being challenged by Miller's play, which used what Miller referred to as the frontier's unsettled, “plastic” qualities to disrupt the script of an imperialism that consolidated its power by insisting on rigid social categories.

Keywords: memory; civil war; melodrama; realism; gender; community; mormons; indians; augustin daly; joaquin miller

Chapter.  13492 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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