Henry Nash Smith
was an American culture and literature researcher. He was co-founder of the academic discipline "American studies
American studies or American civilization is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the study of the United States. It traditionally incorporates the study of history, literature, and critical theory, but also includes fields as diverse as law, art, the media, film, religious studies, urban...
". He was also a noted Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...
scholar, member of the board of directors of the Mark Twain Papers.
He taught at University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. It is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system and has the fourth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 52,557...
, University of Texas, Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University is a private university in Dallas, Texas, United States. Founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, SMU operates campuses in Dallas, Plano, and Taos, New Mexico. SMU is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church...
, and University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...
, from 1953 to 1960, becoming professor emeritus.
His book Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth
(1950) gave name to the Myth and Symbol School, which provided the paradigm
The word paradigm has been used in science to describe distinct concepts. It comes from Greek "παράδειγμα" , "pattern, example, sample" from the verb "παραδείκνυμι" , "exhibit, represent, expose" and that from "παρά" , "beside, beyond" + "δείκνυμι" , "to show, to point out".The original Greek...
of the American Studies
until the 1980s. It was the first PhD thesis of the History of American Civilization
course of the Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...
, therefore its publication can be seen as the hour of birth of American studies. The book's topic was the collective perception of the American West of the 19th century. Smith used sources such as dime novel
Dime novel, though it has a specific meaning, has also become a catch-all term for several different forms of late 19th-century and early 20th-century U.S...
s and other popular culture material.
In his essay Can American Studies Develop a Method?
(American Quarterly 9, 1957: 197-208), to date frequently anthologized, Smith expressed influential objectives and methodology of the Myth and Symbol School
He married Elinor Smith; they had children Harriet Elinor Smith, Janet Carol Smith, and Mayne Smith.
He died on June 6, 1986, following a car accident on May 30 near Elko, Nevada
Elko is a city in Elko County, Nevada, United States. The population was 18,297 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Elko County. The city straddles the Humboldt River....
- Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, 1950 (reprint Vintage Books, 1957; Harvard University Press, 1970, ISBN 9780674939554)
- Mark Twain of the Enterprise, 1957
- Mark Twain: the development of a writer Belknap Press, 1962
- Mark Twain's fable of progress: political and economic ideas in "A Connecticut Yankee.", Rutgers University Press, 1964
- Popular Culture and Industrialism 1865-1890, 1967
- Democracy and the Novel, 1978.