Through a series of Western texts—folkloric, photographic, literary, and historical—Dorst outlines another pattern of looking west, one characterized by optical distortion, faulty vision, and the ambiguous intersection of spectatorship, display, and covert observation. He applies the insights gained from this analysis of discursive patterns to various cultural displays located in the contemporary West.
In a series of ethnographic case studies—two folk art displays, a Western heritage theme park, and Devils Tower National Monument—he shows how this other discourse plays out at actual sites and institutions. In doing so, Dorst offers an account of visual practices that, though dressed in the images and narratives of the American West, are in fact characteristic of our modern consumer culture in general.
John D. Dorst is Professor of American Studies at the University of Wyoming. He is the author of The Written Suburb: An American Site, An Ethnographic Dilemma, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.