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November 1996, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 Nov 1996 14:24:13 -0600
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Mike Frank wonders (about cowboys and detectives):
" 1.  is this idea as obvious and compelling as i for the moment
think, or is there something i'm missing that might throw a monkey wrench
into what is a too facile equation?
        2.   is this idea conventionally a part of the scholarship and
criticism on the western, hard-boiled detective story, and noir modes and
mythologies  that i somehow have managed to miss [or forget]? . . . are thre
any "standard" or important explorations of this connection? (has leslie
fielder wirtten about this--he must have, no???)
        3 (or 2a)--are there any recommended works on the political (regular
politics/cultural politics/sexual politics) of this package of meanings??"
I don't have answers to all these questions (though I'm sure others on the
list do!), but here are a couple of thoughts:
We *could* trace the lineage of the detective back to the cowboy back to
the frontiersperson (Cooper's Leatherstocking might be the archetypal example)
back to the knight errant (a point of comparison explicitly made by Chandler
in his novels) and back to the oral tradition hero (from Beowulf to Sundiata).
An archetypal critic would say there'
s a lesson in this pattern, but I'm more interested in the variations myself.
In particular, there are the variations afforded by specific socio-political
moments.  For example, Chandler creates Phillip Marlow in answer to the genteel
British tradition (actually derived from Poe's Dupin) of the reclusive
armchair detective who works primarily by rationcination.  On the other hand,
Dirty Harry deliberately alludes to Western motifs, especially the ending
out of HIGH NOON, which itself was a twist on the Western in response to the
repressive era of the Blacklist.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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