Close your eyes with holy dread: Reckonings, retribution, revenge and redemption in the new Old West
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This presentation formalizes some preliminary work on a larger research project that will investigate the western genre in film and will eventually include western literature, post 1990. There has been much work done on the western as a genre from the ealy days of Hollywood down through the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood eras, the spaghetti western, and films which essentially close an era of filmmaking about the American "wild west". But only now is there a large enough body of work in the western genre to warrant an extended and thorough study of the way in which the genre has shifted. While the genre is mainly silent through the 1980s, there is an interesting and spirited revival of the genre beginning in 1990 with Kevin Costner's controversial Dances with Wolves; the genre is sustained and simultaneously dealt a death blow by Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. Despite these filsm being very different from each other, I will begin my study by arguing that the groundwork for a new poetics of the western is laid by these two films, and in this new poetics, films must prove themselves to be more accountable to history and the consequences of historical events and to human nature. My study will begin here, eventaully tracing the changes and revisions of the genre through approximately 25 films including the recently released remake of 3:10 to Yuma, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the soon to be released film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, No Country for Old Men. Some of the areas that my presentation will focus on will include the use of history, revision of stock characters, role of violence, the natural environment, role of women, and role of indigenous peoples in the narratives.