Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring 2009, pp. 000-000
Postwestern Cultures addresses "the highly charged and continually shifting meanings" of a space that occupies an outsized, even mythic place in the national imaginary: the American West. The essays in this collection do not focus on this myth or its deconstruction in recent history, criticism, and media; rather, they set out to question, through approaches ranging from ecocriticism and critical regionalism through theories of space and gender, the viability, potency, and destructive power of its iconography. By calling into question the fixed positioning of the West in the national imagination-its history, its material culture, and its status as a "pre-lapsarian, pre-social, and pre-modern space"-the essays invite readers to consider the various "Wests" that circulate in a modern global economy.
The four essays of the first section locate the West in contemporary culture. Using Gayatri Spivak's concept of spectralization, Stephen Tatum reads the computer culture of Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, set nominally in the technology and entertainment centers of Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Las Vegas but actually in the spaces of global capitalism that connect them, as "remap[ping] the American West as a postregional, consumer electronic interface." In reading the West as image, Krista Comer analyzes one of its durable icons, the California surfer girl, in contemporary surf and teen cultures. By employing the lens of critical regionalism, Comer critiques the surfer girl image's potential for a false erasure of racial difference while acknowledging that such features as the Luna Bay series of teen novels and surf camps for older women provide a message of resistance to dominant cultural assessments of women's bodies. Neil Campbell finds that John Brinkerhoff Jackson's work in western cultural geography anticipates Edward Soja's theory of "thirdspace," or the intersection of real and imagined space, while Michael Beehler discusses William Gibson's closed spaces and spaces of play in Virtual Light.