Rodeo Cowboys in the North American Imagination

Overview

In this broadly researched and engagingly written study, historian Michael Allen examines the image of the rodeo cowboy and the role this image has played in popular culture over the past century. He sees rodeo as a significant American folk festival and the rodeo cowboy as the surviving avatar of a nearly vanished authentic figure - the "real cowboy," who embodies the skills and values of traditional western rural culture. Rodeo Cowboys in the North American Imagination explores the evolution of the myth of the ...
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Overview

In this broadly researched and engagingly written study, historian Michael Allen examines the image of the rodeo cowboy and the role this image has played in popular culture over the past century. He sees rodeo as a significant American folk festival and the rodeo cowboy as the surviving avatar of a nearly vanished authentic figure - the "real cowboy," who embodies the skills and values of traditional western rural culture. Rodeo Cowboys in the North American Imagination explores the evolution of the myth of the rodeo man and its subsequent institutionalization and acculturation into the media of popular culture - movies and television, folklore and literature, country music, and the visual arts.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The eternal struggle between the frontier and civilization is at the core of our national heritage, and that's what makes rodeo an important component in the creation of American popular culture. Allen, associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma, clearly explains our continuing interest in rodeo through his combined examination of its history and its cultural interpretation. Rodeos evolved from the curious townspeople who gathered to watch goings-on at the local ranches. As the plains cowboys began to disappear, the rodeo cowboy provided audiences with an image of the real thing. If the cowboys of old liked to drink, carouse and tear things up, today's rodeo is serious business; its participants are organized, sometimes even well paid and refer to themselves as professional athletes. Although movies (e.g., The Lusty Men, The Misfits, Hud) may have been the main entree into the national imagination, Allen notes that the prevalence of rodeo in the arts, literature and even ballet is not so far-fetched. The oral, storytelling tradition of the cowboy has translated well to art, and its folk traditions prevailed during the Vietnam era of counterculture. Allen gives thorough critiques of the books, films, artworks, music and other outgrowths of rodeo, and if he sometimes gets bogged down in detail, this is nonetheless a well-researched, heartfelt study of the roots of an American fascination. "There is no logical explanation for the rodeo-cowboy hero's behavior, nor is there an explanation for the respect and adulation he commands in a modern, high-tech North American society." His question, "Are rodeo cowboys real cowboys?" is moot, he concludes, because what they represent--the thrill of danger--is the real thing. (Sept.)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Frontier, Civilization, and the Meaning of Rodeo 1
1 "Real Cowboys": A Brief History of Rodeo 15
2 "Goin' Down That Road": The Rodeo Cowboy in Movies and Television 36
3 "Wild Side of Life": The Rodeo Cowboy in Folklore and Literature 65
4 "Getting It Right": The Rodeo Cowboy in Art 109
5 "I Ain't Rich but Lord I'm Free": The Rodeo Cowboy in Country Music 131
6 "If You're a Cowboy, You're a Cowboy": Rainbow Rodeo Riders and the Archetypal Anti-Archetype 155
7 "Hooked on an 8 Second Ride": The Rodeo Cowboy as Contemporary Ancestor and Popular-Culture Hero 193
Notes 215
Rodeo Cowboy Lingo: A Glossary 237
Rodeo Sources Roundup Program: Bibliographical Essay 249
Index 255
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