Beautiful Swift Fox: Erna Fergusson and the Modern Southwest
The American Southwest has assumed the status of a cultural icon over the last few decades, and one of the writers who helped it to do so was Erna Fergusson, named by the Hopis Beautiful Swift Fox. An Anglo American whose travel writing featured the multi-ethnicity of her region, she popularized the culture and landscapes of her native New Mexico and its surrounding states in a range of writing that prefigured the genre-defying art that has come to be called the New Journalism.Much has been written about New Mexico's remarkable Fergusson family, especially brother Harvey and his novels. But Erna Fergusson's literary career has been largely overlooked. An iconoclast at the forefront of the Southwest Renaissance movement, Erna gained a wide reputation beginning in the 1930s for her "written versions of the Southwest," which embraced the complexities of regional culture and sympathetically and intelligently portrayed the Indian and Mexican influences.Distinguished Southwestern writer Robert Franklin Gish assesses Fergussons's literary contributions and unlocks the inner workings of the prose stylist who operated at the interstices of genres. With his postmodern reappraisal of the creative nonfiction forms she used, Gish prompts readers to reconsider how they view the art of nonfiction writing. Gish argues persuasively that Fergusson's identity as a native New Mexican and the region's singular landscape informed the attitudes and values present in her art. He explores the ways her entrepreneurial stint as a New Mexico tour guide during the 1920s and 1930s shaped the organizational strategies for her writing. He considers thoughtfully her various forms of writing and how she used travelogue, journalistic report, popular history, and persuasive essay to elevate the Southwest to prominence. Gish shows her writing as highly evocative, descriptive, and metaphorical, defying the conventions of the nonfiction forms she used and paving the way for America's school of New Journalism.Beautiful Swift Fox is not strictly biography; nor does it, in a traditional sense, seek to explicate a body of work. Rather, like its subject, it bridges genres, offering a meditation on one Southwestern writer's sense of place.
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Page 27 - Such are the prospects of an open champaign country, a vast uncultivated desert of huge heaps of mountains, high rocks and precipices, or a wide expanse of waters...
Page 91 - The arid Southwest has always been too strong, too indomitable for most people. Those who can stand it have had to learn that man does not modify this country; it transforms him, deeply.
Page 27 - Our imagination loves to be filled with an object, or to grasp at any thing that is too big for its capacity. We are flung into a pleasing astonishment at such unbounded views, and feel a delightful stillness and amazement in the soul at the apprehension of them.
Page 12 - Every continent has its own great spirit of place. Every people is polarised in some particular locality, which is home, the homeland. Different places on the face of the earth have different vital effluence, different vibration, different chemical exhalation, different polarity with different stars: call it what you like. But the spirit of place is a great reality.
Page 3 - Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.
Page 27 - By greatness, I do not only mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of a whole view.
Page 14 - In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the old world gave way to a new.
Page 9 - On one pole of the metaphor stands man, on the other is the raw majestic and aweinspiring landscape of the Southwest; the epiphany is the natural response to that landscape, a coming together of these two forces...
Page xiv - Staley, director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas...
Page 14 - I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. "They say that they think with their heads," he replied. "Why, of course, what do you think with?" I asked him in surprise. "We think here," he said, indicating his heart. 'I fell into a long meditation. For the first time in my life, so it seemed to me, someone had drawn for me a picture of the real white man.