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Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Western

Image credit: Victor GAD. Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Western. Rutgers School of Communication and Information dalbello@rutgers.edu. Overview _______________________________________ Introduction What is Western? Genre characteristics and appeal “The Formula”

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Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Western

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  1. Image credit: Victor GAD Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults Western Rutgers School of Communication and Informationdalbello@rutgers.edu

  2. Overview • _______________________________________ • Introduction • What is Western? • Genre characteristics and appeal • “The Formula” • History and types • Conclusion

  3. What is a Western? • _______________________________________ • Takes place or is about the West • Formula Western • Western novels • Novels of the West • Industrialization and urbanization (19th century) • American myth of the conquest of the frontier • Monumental “coming of age” plot - the child within • Men’s romance? • Western Writers of America at: http://www.westernwriters.org

  4. What is a Western • Men’s romance? _______________________________________ • Manhood as ideal - romance of solitude • Hero at the center - self-reliant, independent • Reversal of the ideal of womanhood as represented in romantic fiction • Escapist fantasy which glorifies individualism and need to be reunited with nature • In reaction to domestic female fiction - conflict in the public sphere (of the 19th century)

  5. What is a Western • Or narrative of male violence?_______________________________________ • Materialistic, antifeminist, secular • Obsession with death and male suffering • Glorification of sensory action, physical violence • Displacement of a deep need for expression of the child within, a coming-of-age plot • Conquest of the West and the death of nature, native people, and the buffalo

  6. Genre characteristics and appeal • What readers like _______________________________________ • The hero dominates the western • The hero is strong, self-reliant, self-sufficient, in conflict with nature, man or with himself • Dream of freedom in a world of unspoiled nature - nature is central character • Independence of society and the constraints of civilization • Individual heroism at the center • Story of conquest and survival

  7. Genre characteristics and appeal • The Formula _______________________________________ • Time and place important: the myth of the West • Genre dimensions and iconography (Tompkins) • Women and the language of men • Coverage of death • Landscape • Horses • Cattle • Story-line simple and dependent on dichotomies • Nature - Society • Hero - Villains • East - West • etc.

  8. Genre characteristics and appeal • Iconograpy, symbolism, narrative • _______________________________________ • Women and the language of men • Coverage of death • Landscape • Horses • Cattle • Themes identified by Jane Tompkins as constitutive of Western

  9. Women and the language of men • Western - antithesis of the culture of domesticity that dominated Victorian culture (women’s culture) • Women-led reformist movements and Women’s Christian Temperance Union crusade targeting whiskey, gambling, prostitution • Iconography of the western: indoor setting -saloon vs. church • Dichotomy translated at the level of discourse and iconography • Humanistic and theological discourse (religion and authority of the church) - language of women • Physical action, hard boiled and terse - language of men • “When a man with a 45 meets a man with a rifle you say that a man with a pistol is a dead man. Let’s see if that’s true. Go ahead, load up and shoot.” • “When a man has money in his pocket he begins to appreciate peace.” • (Clint Eastwood, in For a Fistful of Dollars)

  10. Death • The narrative’s stylization is a way of controlling its violence • Death and suffering glorified, stylized • Symbolizes encounter of civilization and the frontier

  11. Landscape • Setting is a character • The appeal of desert as a metaphor • Western framed within landscape (beginning and end) • Hardness and austerity - primal engagement with nature

  12. Horses • Presence of horses in western - their disappearance in nature • Horses are vitality, wildness, hero’s connection to the earth • Body of the hero is the analogue of the horse he rides • Horse symbolizes subjugation of nature to the hero • Horse ensures survival of the hero • Antithesis to technology

  13. Cattle • Cattle in Western is raised to be killed, not to be subjugated • Cattle is anonymous, invisible, manipulated in mass • Antithetical to freedom: to be herded and to be fenced in • Cattle is wealth

  14. Historical development _______________________________________ • Precursors and foundational works • Frontier fiction, captivity narratives • James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826) • Beadle “dime novels” (1860) • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show (1883-1913) • Owen Wister, The Virginian (1902) • Karl May (European) • Western novels - notable writers • Zane Grey, Max Brand (1920s-1930s) • Louis L’Amour (1950s) • Larry McMurtry the only living classic author • Trends • Imprints for classic westerns • University presses (set in respective states, historical) • Revisionist - depicting the unromanticized West • Young adult and juvenile (most active) • Evangelicals (Bethany House, Crossway, Multinomah)

  15. Types of Western • _______________________________________ • Thematic categorization • Native Americans • Indian Captives • Mountain Men • Wagons West and early settlement • Merchants and Teamsters • Mines and mining • Law and lawmen • Bad men and good • Army in the West • Texas and Mexico • Hired man on horseback • Cattle drives • Cattle kingdoms • Range Wars • Sheepmen • Buffalo Runners • Celebrity characters • Singular Women • African Americans in the West, Mormons, etc.

  16. Types of Western • _______________________________________ • Aspect and audience • Unromanticized • Picaresque • Comedy and parody • Coming of age • Romance • Young adult Westerns • Other • The West lives on • Eccentric variations • Sagas • Series

  17. Conclusion • _______________________________________ • The Western is a myth of individualism and the frontier • The conflict at the core (nature, civilization) • Debates about the survival of westerns • Steady-sellers and transmedia genre • Genre of male identification

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