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The western: a contemporary reading of a “dead” genre

Grady, William (2011) The western: a contemporary reading of a “dead” genre. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This study aims to give a contemporary reading of the Western genre, based on a genre model proposed by Thomas Schatz as its framework. As a number of critics and film industry figures suggested the death of the genre in the 1970s, this study aims to argue against this notion. Like many scholars only contend with Hollywood’s output of the genre up to the 1960s, and many remain within the confines of cinema; this study aims to broaden how we engage with the genre. This will be both textually (looking at “low” literature as well as film), and historically—considering the Westerns early roots in Nineteenth Century dime novels, and beyond 1960s Hollywood to European Westerns and more recent Western films and comic books. The study will take one key element within each of the four newly developed areas of the genres history, and develop a contemporary reading of them; in essence to disprove the “death” of the genre. This generally works out as a focus on mythmaking in Chapter 1, narrative and character models in Chapter 2, cinematic aesthetic in Chapter 3, and audience in Chapter 4. This will mainly be achieved through analysis of the contemporary comic books Preacher (Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, 1995-2000), and Priest (Min-Woo Hyung, 2002-2007), and the film Cowboys & Aliens (Dir. Jon Favreau, 2011).

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