chapter  3
American Epic: Then and Now (1998)
Pages 17

The theme of "America as epic" directs people to think, initially, not about the multiplicity of America and Americans but of a single dominant story, carried by heroes. The thesis is that the epic of America, dominant until at least the 1930s and 1940s, has been in recent decades eclipsed by another and quite different "epic of America". The first emphasizes the newness, the vastness, the openness of America—the freedom thereby granted to Americans. It is the old, or at least the older story, about America. Connected with it are such terms as the American idea, or the American creed, or the American dream, or Manifest Destiny. It is true that the frontier as a continuous line of settlement to the West no longer existed by 1890. The second epic, which the author places in opposition to the first, is a somewhat more problematic epic: It emphasizes racial and ethnic diversity, whether in an optimistic or pessimistic mood.