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Twentieth-century authors and filmmakers have created a pantheon of mavericks—some macho, others angst-ridden—who often cross a metaphorical boundary among the literal ones of Anglo, Native American, and Hispanic cultures. Douglas Canfield examines the concept of borders, defining them as the space between states and cultures and ideologies, and focuses on these border crossings as a key feature of novels and films about the region.

Canfield begins in the Old Southwest of Faulkner’s Mississippi, addressing the problem of slavery; travels west to North Texas and the infamous Gainesville Hanging of Unionists during the Civil War; and then follows scalpers into the Southwest Borderlands. He then turns to the area of the Gadsden Purchase, known for its outlaws and Indian wars, before heading south of the border for the Yaqui persecution and the Mexican Revolution.

Alongside such well-known works as Go Down Moses, The Wild Bunch, Broken Arrow, Gringo Viejo, and Blood Meridian, Canfield discusses novels and films that tell equally compelling stories of the region. Protagonists face various identity crises as they attempt border crossings into other cultures or mindsets—some complete successful crossings, some go native, and some fail. He analyzes figures such as Geronimo, Doc Holliday, and Billy the Kid alongside less familiar mavericks as they struggle for identity, purpose, and justice.

J. Douglas Canfield, Regents Professor of English at the University of Arizona, is the author of Tricksters and Estates and Heroes and States, a two-volume cultural history of English Restoration drama.

"Praiseworthy for its ambitious effort to bring together works written in Spanish and in English, as well as canonical literature, popular literature, and film."—American Literature

"Locates itself—brilliantly and originally—at the intersection of a geography in the making and a quest for identity, offering the classic Southwest—more an event than a place—as the moral and spiritual region wherein the protagonists attempt a crossing, the shift of identity located in the shifting borderlands."—Armando J. Prats

"Wise, urbane, persuasive, and comprehensive. . . . Canfield does it all and extremely well."—Choice

"A fascinating subject and a timely one, dealing as it does with multicultural traditions and with versions of the Western."—John G. Cawelti

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Southwestern states, American historical fiction, Western films, Westerns, Borders, Border crossings


Literature in English, North America

Mavericks on the Border: The Early Southwest in Historical Fiction and Film
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