Following the climactic gunfight in the saloon at the end of the classic Western film Shane (1953), Shane tells Little Joe he’s “gotta be goin’ on.” In the final scene, Shane rides alone into the mountains, into the virgin land, leaving behind the farmers he has protected as they sought to cultivate what was once the open range. Like many American heroes, Shane, as Huck Finn puts it, lights out for the territory, searching in the untamed wilderness for the lost Eden, for the longed-for brave new world. In this talk, Michael Collins will focus on the role that the putatively virgin land, just beyond the settlement, has played in the American imagination in the past and in our own time. Collins will also look at the paradoxical response that the United States has traditionally made to the abundance of open land it believes it has been given.
Michael Scott, director of the Future of the Humanities Project, will provide opening and closing remarks, and Kathryn Temple, a Future of the Humanities Project senior fellow, will moderate a Q&A session following the presentation.
This event is sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project; the Georgetown Humanities Initiative; the Georgetown Master’s Program in the Engaged and Public Humanities; Campion Hall, Oxford; and the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, Oxford). It is part of the one-year-long series: A Bent but Beautiful World: Literature, Art, and the Environment.