Richard Etulain is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of New Mexico. He taught previously at Northwest Nazarene University and Idaho State University. His book, Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era, was published in 2013 and a new biography of the Old West woman, Calamity Jane, is forthcoming in 2014.
This illustrated program deals with Lincoln’s links with the American West. From the Oregon and Mexican War controversies in the 1840s, through the conflicts over the extension of slavery in the 1850s, and on to the Homestead Act, the transcontinental railroad, and College Land-Grant legislation in his presidency, Lincoln was connected to the West. This presentation also deals with Lincoln’s contacts with Indians, Mormons, and regions such as the Pacific Northwest, California, the Southwest, and the Great Plains. Abraham Lincoln helped shape what has become the modern American West.
This slide-illustrated presentation raises an important question: What is it about our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, that has so captured us? Americans have venerated him for nearly a century, named him our best president, and written more than one thousand biographies about him. This talk suggests that Lincoln's skills as a political leader are what set him apart, particularly his ability to work in a nonpartisan way despite his own strong party affiliation. Dr. Etulain discusses the political genius and generosity of our most important president and asks how those skills might influence today's American politics.
This presentation deals with the changing images of the American West as seen through novels, histories, films, and other popular media. The speaker shows how early images of the West treated it as a remote, wild, and uncivilized region. By World War II and into the 1960s however, writers and filmmakers were beginning to see the West as much more complex, as a place of racial and ethnic competitions and environmental conflict. Gradually the heroic characters that John Wayne and writer Louis L'Amour depicted gave way to the antiheroic protagonists of actor Clint Eastwood and of writers such as Larry McMurtry. This presentation asks us to think about the ways we have interpreted our West and why these interpretations have so often changed in the past century and more.
In the last three decades Americans have become increasingly intrigued with the influences of ethnic and racial groups on the history and culture of the United States. The Basques of the American West present a fascinating study in this regard, and residents of western states are finding rich voices in the once silenced community history of the Amerikanuak. This presentation by Richard Etulain, himself of Basque heritage, explores how Basque experiences in the American West differ and mirror those of other ethnic and immigrant groups.
Films about the American West have entertained audiences around the world for more than a century. Why have these adventure stories, with their simple plots and stereotyped cowboys, Native Americans, and leading ladies, so captured our imaginations? This slide-illustrated presentation offers insights into this question through an overview of one hundred years of Western films. Classic films like Stagecoach, High Noon, and Shane are dealt with, as are leading figures like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and John Ford. The talk also will deal with new kinds of Westerns like Little Big Man, Geronimo, and Lone Star that have appeared more recently.
Wallace Stegner (1908-1993) is often described as a superlative western author and thinker—the Wise Man of the American West. He won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for his fiction and wide critical and popular attention for his nonfiction. He also is regularly named as one of the leading American spokesmen for conservation. This presentation utilizes photographs and key works to deal with Stegner's major contributions and raises probing questions about his career as a westerner, public intellectual, and wilderness defender. Richard Etulain interviewed Stegner and collaborated with him on a book entitled Conversations with Wallace Stegner on Western History and Literature.