Cover image for Culture in the American Southwest : the earth, the sky, the people
Culture in the American Southwest : the earth, the sky, the people
Bryant, Keith L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
College Station : Texas A&M University, [2001]

Physical Description:
379 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E78.S7 B78 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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If the Southwest is known for its distinctive regional culture, it is not only the indigenous influences that make it so. As Anglo Americans moved into the territories of the greater Southwest, they brought with them a desire to reestablish the highest culture of their former homes: opera, painting, sculpture, architecture, and literature. But their inherited culture was altered, challenged, and reshaped by Native American and Hispanic peoples, and a new, vibrant cultural life resulted. From Houston to Los Angeles, from Tulsa to Tucson, Keith L. Bryant traces the development of "high culture" in the Southwest.

Humans create culture, but in the Southwest, Bryant argues, the land itself has also influenced that creation. "Incredible light, natural grandeur, . . . and a geography at once beautiful and yet brutal molded societies that sprang from unique cultural sources." The peoples of the American Southwest share a regional consciousness--an experience of place--that has helped to create a unified, but not homogenized, Southwestern culture.

Bryant also examines a paradox of Southwestern cultural life. Southwesterners take pride in their cultural distinctiveness, yet they struggled to win recognition for their achievements in "high culture." A dynamic tension between those seeking to re-create a Western European culture and those desiring one based on regional themes and resources continues to stimulate creativity.

Decade by decade and city by city, Bryant charts the growth of cultural institutions and patronage as he describes the contributions of artists and performers and of the elites who support them. Bryant focuses on the significant role women played as leaders in the formation of cultural institutions and as writers, artists, and musicians. The text is enhanced by more than fifty photographs depicting the interplay between the people and the land and the culture that has resulted.

Author Notes

Keith L. Bryant, Jr., a professor emeritus of history at the University of Akron, has published in Southwest history for over thirty years. His studies have included regional architecture, art, and cultural institutions. He also authored a biography of the American Impressionist painter William Merritt Chase.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Few books on the American Southwest have woven together its history, ethnicity, geography, and mythology to demonstrate their impacts on the region's "high culture." Bryant (history, Univ. of Akron; William Merritt Chase: A Genteel Bohemian. o.p.) has put together such a work. He ably captures the essence of the Southwest as he describes how Native American and Hispanic cultures reshaped the "high culture" of the Anglo Americans to produce a distinctive regional culture. The author explores the area from the Mexican-American War (1846-48) to the economic, architectural, literary, and theatrical revival of the mid-1990s. He touches on such well-known writers and artists as Georgia O'Keeffe and Zane Grey and introduces hundreds more, such as Oklahoman Alexander Hogue, a painter of the land, and Roy Harris, a composer of 200 musical compositions effusing the spirit of the Southwest. The many photographs enrich this valuable source for anyone interested in history or the cultural trends of the American Southwest. Recommended for public and academic libraries, particularly those with strong arts collections.DDeborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Bryant approaches the evolution of culture in the American Southwest by examining the development of artistic work and institutions in what is now the area from Texas to California. He traces a mixture of influences that combined ethnicity with awareness of geographic perspective, giving special attention to the importance of the patronage of the arts by changing economic and social elites in the region. However, the book's methodology raises significant problems, particularly concerning its definition of culture and what ethnic groups are studied. Why, for instance, does Bryant briefly introduce the fascinating faux-Indian style of Fred Harvey's tourist hotels and then ignore the other countless later aspects of American popular culture, from Disney to Sun City, that originated in the Southwest? Although the book did not necessarily start as a study of elite culture, it becomes increasingly that in the chapters on the 20th century, with very little attention given to mass culture influencing and influenced by society. Equally serious, Bryant's claim to ethnic inclusiveness is compromised by his failure to analyze the involvement of African Americans and Asian Americans, especially considering their growth in the region to significant numbers and cultural importance. Such shortcomings in a work that claims to deal with diversity is perplexing. Graduate students and above. C. K. Piehl Minnesota State University, Mankato