^..O^^-^-Vf-iiii^nInscribing the American FrontiernIn August 1990, George Bush announced that Americanwas “drawing a line in the sand” of the Saudi Arabianndesert. With those words, the President recalled a list ofnindividuals reaching back to Christopher Columbus whonhave defined “America” by the act, whether physical ornverbal, of inscribing the American land. Definition is, byncommon understanding, a verbal act: we look to Webster’s,nfor example, to understand “landscape” or “America.” Andngiven the European cultural attitude toward ownership ofnland, we move smoothly from verbal to physical inscription,ndrawing boundary lines on the map, continually trying ton”fix” or make permanent an ever-changing Western fron-nHer.nI emphasize the inherited cultural attitude evidenced innBush’s remark because assumptions about land, frontier,nand environment transplanted from the Old to the “New”nWorld have substantially determined how Americans saw —nand continue to see — themselves and their role in America.nMission, enterprise, and divine plan became the 19thcentury’sn”manifest destiny,” and the North Americanncontinent continued to function as the setting for thatndestiny. From this perspective, land was a tool; valuable notnso much for itself but for what it facilitated.nAttitudes inherited from Europe, however, composednonly a part of what rapidly became a Western story ofninteracting tensions. The perception of land as a commodity,nwhether for financial or for spiritual profit, eventually hadnto encounter the actuality of living on, and with, the land. Innan essay entitied “Landscape, History, and the PueblonImagination,” Leslie Silko, a woman of native Americanndescent, calls attention to fundamental differences betweennthe Anglo-Saxon and the Native American understandingnof the word “landscape.” “So long as the human conscious-nA. Carl Bredahl is a professor of English at thenUniversity of Florida at Gainesville.n26/CHRONICLESnby A. Carl Bredahlnnnness remains within the hills, canyons, cliffs, and the plants,nclouds, and the sky, the term landscape, as it has entered thenEnglish language, is misleading. [The dictionary descriptionnof] ‘a portion of territory the eye can comprehend in a singlenview’ does not correctly describe the relationship betweennthe human being and his or her surroundings. This assumesnthe viewer is somehow outside or separate from the territorynhe or she surveys. Viewers are as much a part of thenlandscape as the boulders they stand on.”nA Public Broadcasting production in 1988, “The AmericannAdventure,” began by asking why the Jamestownnsettlers did not simply become Englishmen recreatingnEngland. The program went on to describe a new nationnemerging, but did not do much to answer its own question.nFrom an evolutionary perspective, a new nation did emerge,nbecause that is what life does; it evolves, continuallynexpressing itself in what the 20th-century philosopher AlfrednNorth Whitehead called “novelty.” Though many settlersnin both Jamestown and Massachusetts Bay tried very hard tonbe transplanted Englishmen, they could not simply reproducenold world values.nFew human beings, however, whether at Jamestown inn1607 or Prague in 1990, comfortably embrace novelty. Notnsurprisingly, therefore, one of the predominant images orncliches in American mythology is that of “circling thenwagons,” an act of resistance to novelty. Even before thenPuritans landed in the New World, John Winthrop wasnverbally anticipating this action. Aboard the Arbella, in anspeech entitled “A Model of Christian Charity,” Winthropndescribed his vision of what the colony should be: “as a Citynupon a Hill” — a statement that Ronald Reagan used duringnhis presidency. Winthrop’s words suggest the effort of thenAnglo-Saxon mind to separate itself from the environmentnand to discover underlying principles in natural and humannnature. “We shall be as a City upon a Hill,” with its echoesnof Augustine’s “City of Cod,” emphasizes the city as an