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November 1996, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 Nov 1996 15:36:03 EST
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On Mon, 25 Nov 1996 11:26:56 -0400 Mike Frank said:
>        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???)
I think it's a commonplace of pop culture criticism (circa 1970s), so much
so that a coherent challenge to it is probably due.  The Cliff's Notes
version of the connection between western heroes and private eyes (or
whatever) is that American heroes in any setting are variations on the
"classic" archetype best embodied by Leatherstocking (loner who
negotiates between civilization and savagery, fears women / domesticity,
often has a single male companion / sidekick).
Fiedler's work on the Leatherstocking / Huck Finn paradigm is certainly
relevant.  A scholar you might run through the ol' MLA is John G. Cawelti,
who has written extensively on the western and the detective story.  I
know he has at least one article (from sometime in the 1970s--I can find
the specific reference in my notes if you're interested) on the two
icons you're interested in.  In THE SIX-GUN MYSTIQUE, though, Cawelti
challenges the critical cliche that the cop film (a la DIRTY HARRY) is
basically "a western in modern dress."  (I can also give you Cawelti's
e-mail address privately--he's a nice guy and would be receptive to
Christian L. Pyle
University of Kentucky
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