Manifest Destiny: the American West as a Map of the Unconscious

  • Marco Petrelli
Keywords: manifest destiny, american frontier, graphic narrative research, geocriticism


The aim of this essay is to analyze the role of space and the different layers of significance associated to it in the Image Comics series Manifest Destiny. The American frontier epic still stand as one of the vastest and most important mythological sources of the US. The frontier space is not of course limited to its geographical dimension – at least from 1893 onwards, when the “closure” of the frontier and the publication of the Turner Thesis made it a polysemic “place” in which psychological, political and social elements met and conflicted with one another. Since the definition of this space was always dependent upon ideological stances, its depiction has always oscillated between the poles of Utopia and Dystopia, blending realism, imagination and ideology. Manifest Destiny is not an exception – its spatial dimension conjugates history and mythology, while also showing the strong influence of popular culture and pulp culture’s horror and weird literature, mainly via its most famous author: H. P. Lovecraft. Through the use of some classical outlooks on the American frontier like Frederick Jackson Turner and Richard Slotkin’s theses, together with some more general contributions on the cultural and narrative meaning of space like Edward Soja’s Thirdspace, Yi-Fu Tuan’s human geography and Ruth D. Weston’s analysis of the gothic space, the essay goes through the “mindscape” projected by Manifest Destiny’s geography and addresses its symbolic and allegorical meaning. As a result, the series’ unconventional take on American mythology and its iconoclastic political agenda are thoroughly deconstructed and examined.
How to Cite
Petrelli, M. (2018). Manifest Destiny: the American West as a Map of the Unconscious. Between, 8(15).