Texas as the Stand-in for the Nation

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This is a 3 page paper that deals with the historical and contemporary ways that Texas has served a metonymic role for the nation.

In the first half of the paper the student will need to identify an early trope/symbol/icon/etc. from the nineteenth century or before and explain how that trope/symbol/icon/etc. was used as a stand-in for the nation. What was happening in the nation’s history at that moment that caused Americans to identify with it? What were Americans saying by identifying with the object of your paper? Why were they? Who was identifying with it? And why was it so important that so many people identified with it?

In the second half of the paper the student will either carry the trope/symbol/icon/etc. from the first half of the paper into the twentieth century, if it’s possible (ie: The Texas Rangers from nineteenth century police force to twentieth century baseball team). Why would that image still be popular and meaningful for Texans and Americans? If you choose a new example from the twentieth or twenty-first centuries explain why the shift to a different metonym was significant and how that change reflected larger historical transformation in the state and nation. (For example, if you used nineteenth century Texas cowboys in the first half and then switched to the 1980s TV show Dallas you need to explain why rich businessmen in a major US city were more indicative of the state and nation in the 1980s than cowboys were.)

Within the paper you will need to contextualize your metonym(s), or explain the events/changes/bills/etc. of the time and their connections to what you have chosen.

Examples from the Past:

  • The 1836 Battle of the Alamo
  • Longhorn cattle
  • Cowboys
  • Cattle drives
  • The Texas Rangers (in the nineteenth century)
  • Populists/farmers
  • Etc.
  • Examples from the Present

  • Oil
  • Rich Businessmen
  • Cosmic Cowboy
  • Dallas (the TV show)
  • The Dallas Cowboy (“America’s Team”)
  • How the perception of the city of Austin has changed over time
  • Tacos/Breakfast Tacos
  • Friday Night Lights (book)
  • Friday Night Lights (TV show)
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