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Unformatted text preview: What Is a Western? Politics and Self- Knowledge in John Ford’s The Searchers Robert B. Pippin It is generally agreed that while, from the silent film The Great Train Rob- bery ( 1903 ) until the present, well over seven thousand Westerns have been made it was not until three seminal articles in the nineteen fifties by Andre ´ Bazin and Robert Warshow that the genre began to be taken seriously. Indeed Bazin argued that the “secret” of the extraordinary persistence of the Western must be due to the fact that the Western embodies “the essence of cinema,” and he suggested that that essence was its incorporation of myth and a mythic consciousness of the world. 1 He appeared to mean by this that Westerns This article is the third of the Castle lectures delivered at Yale University in early 2008 . The series was given again at the University of Chicago in the spring of that year. It is also a chapter of a forthcoming book based on these lectures, Political Psychology, American Myth, and Some Hollywood Westerns . I am very grateful to Yale and to Seyla Benhabib for the invitation to give the Castle lectures (and for their willingness to permit me such an unusual approach to issues in political philosophy); to Bob von Hallberg for encouraging me to give the series at Chicago and for supporting such a series; and to Greg Freeman and Jonny Thakkar for their help in the organization and publicity for those lectures. All of the work on the Westerns book was made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and I am happy to have yet another occasion to thank them for their extraordinary generosity and their Distinguished Achievement Award. I owe a great deal as well to a number of people with whom I have discussed these issues, all of whom made important and useful suggestions. I am going to leave someone out, but I am especially grateful to Brendan Boyle, John Carroll, Jim Conant, Raine Daston, Bo Earle, Michael Fried, Bob Gooding-Williams, Tom Gunning, Miriam Hansen, Dan Morgan, Glenn Most, Richard Neer, Thomas Pavel, Gil Perez, Victor Perkins, C. D. C. Reeve, Bob von Hallberg, and George Wilson. 1. Andre ´ Bazin, “The Western, or the American Film par excellence, ” What Is Cinema? trans. and ed. Hugh Gray, 2 vols. (Berkeley, 1971 ), 2 : 141 . See also Bazin, “The Evolution of the Western,” What Is Cinema? 2 : 149 – 57 , and Robert Warshow, “The Westerner,” in The Western Reader , ed. Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman (New York, 1998 ), pp. 35 – 47 . Warshow does not talk explicitly in terms of myth, but his essay is all about “patterns,” “structure,” and “codes.” Critical Inquiry 35 (Winter 2009 ) © 2008 by The University of Chicago. 0093- 1896 / 09 / 3502- 0008 $ 10 . 00 . All rights reserved....
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This note was uploaded on 05/13/2010 for the course DFG 122932 taught by Professor Marley during the Spring '10 term at École Normale Supérieure.
- Spring '10