Deterritorializing Paul Bunyan

Although well known in American folklore, Paul Bunyan is an enigmatic character with dubious Canadian origins. James Stevens’ 1929 version of the story has him crossing the Quebec-Maine border proudly declaring his transformation from a backwoods habitant to a “real American”.

A quick snapshot of Paul Bunyan in the 20th century has him changing from a worker’s hero to a kind of patron saint of big business, an earth moving giant that personifies the ideals of extraction in terms of economic and industrial interests.

In 1954, Fortune magazine features a cartoon of him on their cover as the benign face of the logging industry. Reading between the lines of these histories, how might we view the changing representations of Mr. Bunyan? Can he be revisioned in terms of contemporary politics: Could he be considered among the early architects of NAFTA? A subversive border crosser, roaming freely through the Northern woods between Canada and the US? Workshop at University of Maine Farmington, with Justin Langlois and the Tug Collective. April 2011.

about Frontier Files

The Frontier Files is an online archive of visual and material culture relating to geographic borders in North America and elsewhere. This site documents the Border Bookmobile Project (2010-2013) which served as the beginning of ongoing research into the relationship between contemporary borders and the western, historical concept of the frontier. Images and documents chart the shifting aesthetics and politics of borders over the last century. This archive is organized by Lee Rodney, Associate Professor of Media Art Histories and Visual Culture at the University of Windsor, Canada.

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