1st Edition

Looka Yonder! The Imaginary America of Populist Culture

By Duncan Webster Copyright 1988
    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    From Reagan and the New Right to Thatcherism, from the success of Bruce Springsteen to the popularity of the Sun, populism is one of the central questions of the 1980s. First published in 1988, Looka Yonder!  analyses the important and ambivalent terrain of American populism across a range of cultural forms, historical traditions, and political events. The book discusses the contradictory nature of these traditions, looking at the historical echoes of the 1890s Populists and the 1930s New Deal in the farm crisis of the 1980s. It suggests that a monolithic view of ‘America’ misses seeing the struggles over traditions and values, with Reagan trying to appropriate Bruce Springsteen, and with opposition to the radical right asserting their claim to national symbols and values.

    The range of references and readings takes us across periods, genres, and forms, discussing Willa Cather and Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard and Martin Scorsese, Raymond Carver, Bobbie Ann Mason and Jayne Anne Philips, Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins and David Mamet, Steinbeck, and Tom Waits. With equal weight given to literary traditions and to popular culture, this book will appeal to students of American culture and to those who enjoy the energy of American films, fiction, and music.

    Introduction: Looka Yonder!   1. Family fields: the farming narrative  2. Country images: from Steinbeck’s Okies to Hollywood’s heartland  3. Sam Shepard’s cowboy mouth: representing masculinity  4. ‘Things fall apart’: loss in recent American fiction  5. American crime: ‘Debts no honest man could pay’  6. ‘Are you ready for the country?’: tradition and American music  7. The long reaction: ‘Americanization’ and cultural criticism  Conclusion: President Rambo’s poodle


    Duncan Webster, at the time of the first publication, was Lecturer in English at Trent Polytechnic.

    Review of the first publication:

    “…his book is a valuable corrective to the appropriation by conservative ideologues of iconic images of the American environment.”

    David Sanjek, American Quarterly