Professor Challenges the Perspective of the American Frontier Hero

Book, The Emergence of the American Frontier Hero

The early American frontier hero is often cast as a self-reliant male with a tough-guy attitude.

But School of Business Associate Professor Denise Mary MacNeil’s new book, “The Emergence of the American Frontier Hero, 1682-1826: Gender, Action and Emotion,” serves to challenge that perspective.

The book, which was published in November, makes the case that our earliest impressions of American frontier heroes actually stem from writings penned by a female, chronicling a female, Native American experience.

Often, historians and literary experts have linked this hero to male literary characters of the early 19th century, including James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking or Natty Bumpo.

But MacNeil’s book argues that this American frontier hero model was first found in Mary Rowlandson’s 1682 work, “Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration.” In this book, the central figure is actually a female, who recounts her experiences as a prisoner of war living with her Algonquin captors in the forests of seventeenth-century America during King Philip’s War.

This heroine relies in part on her Native American perspectives, traits and skills to guide her actions -- complicating the stereotype that the American frontier hero is a white male.

The book, MacNeil says, is expected to appeal to students of literature, race and ethnic studies, gender studies, and history. But it also is relevant to business leaders, as they strive to understand how the roles of culture and gender play out in the day-to-day workplace.

MacNeil’s own areas of expertise include cultural contests for business, business writing and critical analysis. She speaks frequently on critical thinking and the business brainstorming process, as well as the role of writing in business communication.

MacNeil also has had research published in “Studies in American Indian Literature,” “Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal,” and “Southeast Women’s Studies Association News.” She has done conference presentations for the American Literature Association, the Popular Culture Association and the Society of Early Americanists, among others.

Call MacNeil at 909-748-8775 for more information.

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