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November 1999, Week 1


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Sandy Camargo <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 5 Nov 1999 14:52:43 -0600
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I've been following the discussion of westerns, genres, and definitions
with a great deal of interest. While I find the concept very useful in
teaching, I've become increasingly uncomfortable with the kinds of narrow,
formalist definitions of genre that we've traditionally used (a western has
horses, guns, Stetson hats, spurs, etc.) since they apply to fewer and
fewer of the films that are made today and since, even in terms of
classical cinema, formalist definitions really only seem to fit westerns
and gangster films. Thematic approaches--the loner standing up against evil
for the sake of the community, etc.--on the other hand seem too broad, as
some of you have also noticed. For that reason, I'm experimenting with an
experiential approach to genre in which genres might be defined by the
sorts of responses that they are designed to elicit. So, a western would
give the spectators the feeling that they had been transported back to the
Old West. This way of looking at the western would explain why a film like
WESTWORLD, which has guns, horses, Stetsons, etc., is not perceived as a
        People who are interested in a carefully worked-out explanation for
the origins of genres, and one which avoids the classic hermeneutic circle,
might want to look at Rick Altman's new book FILM/GENRE.

        Sandy Camargo
        Department of English
        University of Missouri

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