192 Western American Literature Summer 2010 The subsequent chapters examine in turn four important late-nineteenth-century cultural icons: Joaquin Murrieta, Lola Casanova, the heroines of Guaymas, and Teresa Urrea. In each case, Irwin provides a synopsis of their emergence from historical and cultural perspectives and then carefully traces their transformations into "products of history, legend, gossip, and literary imagination" and how various individuals and groups harness these products (newspaper accounts, historiography, novels, corridos, films, poetry, academic scholarship, theater, and so forth) to serve various, often conflicting local, regional, national, and transnational interests and aims (xii). Irwin's carefully researched work leads to complex readings of these figures and their traditions that helpfully eschew oversimplification and easy binaries while remaining refreshingly accessible. At times, the text may seem to the casual reader to get bogged down in too much negative criticism of existing scholarship. He spends a paragraph critiquing, for example, the various (mis)spellings of Joaquin Murrieta's name. Such seems the stuff of pedantic endnotes; however, Irwin's approach is important to his overall methodology, for the variant spellings point to variant cultural traditions as well as reflect different, sometimes harmful, ideological work. His use of negative criticism, then, serves to reveal
Western American Literature – The Western Literature Association
Published: Aug 13, 2010
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