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Cowboy ClassicsThe Roots of the American Western in the Epic Tradition$
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Kirsten Day

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474402460

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474402460.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 03 April 2020

Introduction: Western Film and the Epic Tradition

Introduction: Western Film and the Epic Tradition

Chapter:
(p.11) Introduction: Western Film and the Epic Tradition
Source:
Cowboy Classics
Author(s):

Kirsten Day

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474402460.003.0002

Drawing on a wide range of cinematic productions spanning from The Virginian in 1929 to Golden Age and spaghetti westerns to recent popular TV series like Deadwood and Longmire, this chapter establishes the close connection between Western film and ancient epic, showing that like the poems of Homer and Virgil, Western film places invented or fictionalized characters in a foundational period from history, and thus offer enough truth to be relevant, but enough fiction to provide a comfortable distance. Works from both genres also delineate fundamental values and beliefs and provide models both virtuous and cautionary for male and female behavior while helping to justify national self-image. At the same time, the best productions from both genres complicate the ideologies they promote through devices such as depictions of excessive violence, positioning protagonist and enemy as alter egos, and the hero’s ultimate exclusion from the society he has redeemed. And much as epic both reflected and influenced notions of honor, justice, and manhood in antiquity, the imprint of Westerns on our own belief systems is so powerful that it continues to shape and reflect our own values and ideologies today.

Keywords:   Westerns, Epic, Homer, Virgil, Honor, Manhood, Spaghetti western, The Virginian, Deadwood, Longmire

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