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Myth of the WesternNew Perspectives on Hollywood's Frontier Narrative$
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Matthew Carter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748685585

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748685585.001.0001

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. Rethinking Revisionism

. Rethinking Revisionism

Chapter:
(p.114) 3. Rethinking Revisionism
Source:
Myth of the Western
Author(s):

Matthew Carter

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748685585.003.0004

The third chapter begins by providing an account of the generally assumed evolution of the Western's classical plot formulas into the critical revisionist phase of the genre. This chapter first scrutinises John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and its deconstruction of the myth of individualist heroism as a specifically revisionist trait. Following Liberty Valance, it is claimed that a slew of films acted as historical correctives to the classical Western, consciously raising issues concerning the genre's part in the construction of erroneous cultural attitudes that distorted the real experience of the frontier. This chapter critically assesses the revisionist category and offers a detailed consideration of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, the film most-often heralded as the exemplar of Western revisionism. First, it provides a contextual review of scholarship on Unforgiven, most of which tends to assume a set of classical generic codes and motifs that the film either successfully repudiates through a conscious semiotic and thematic revisionism, or else ends up succumbing to by the narrative's climax. Comparing it with older Westerns, this chapter refutes the common revisionist contention that, over time, the optimistic vision that typified the frontier communities of the classical Western becomes darker and more complex.

Keywords:   Classical Western, Revisionist Western, History, Frontier, Ideology, Genre Theory

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