This is prolly a looooonnnng shot but then...
"A magic mirror": Representations of the Donner Party, 1846-1997
Mobley, Richard Scott. Dissertations And Theses 1997. 352 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- California: University of California, Santa Cruz; 1997.
The Donner party tragedy is a tale ofalmost unbelievablesuffering, endurance, and achievement. Butperhaps the most remarkable aspect of this narrative is its ownpower of survival. The story's vitality through 150 years suggeststhat it speaks to far larger cultural issues than the unhappy fateof a particular California-bound wagon train. Yet the variety ofliterature devoted to the Donner party experience has receivedlittle consideration from critical theorists analyzing the workingsof culture.
This dissertation argues that the saga'scontinuing resonance can be understood in terms of its melodramaticappeal. It shows how the tale holds a "magic mirror" to theculture, exposing some of its most deeply held conventions. AsDonner party scholarship, my study pioneers a metacriticalviewpoint. As cultural critique, it maps a largely unexploredobject.
The thesis historically surveys theDonner party literature, and discusses the dominant themes inrepresentations of the tragedy. These take shape as a melodrama inwhich the historical truth must be rescued from myth anddistortion.
In an effort to distill this plot ofhistoriographic heroism, Part I of the dissertation probes thestory's natural setting, explores the tale's historical context,and analyzes the literary form and content of key source materials.Part II details the rhetoric whereby different genres of Donnerparty literature locate themselves on opposing sides of the dividebetween historical fact and fiction. The concluding chaptersexamine the ideological vocation of this rhetoric, in which theimmigrants' ordeal ultimately figures as a laboratory for testingdiffering grades of the human character.
Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Connery, Chris
School: University of California, Santa Cruz
School Location: United States -- California
Keyword(s): California, pioneers, wagon trains
Source type: Dissertation
Subjects: American literature, American studies