The Philosophy of the Western

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Overview

There are few genres that capture the hearts of their audiences like the Western. While they are not always true to it, Westerns are tied to, and expressive of, the history of the United States. As such, they serve both to reflect and inform the American psyche. Indeed, the Western is arguably the most iconic and influential genre in American cinema. Through characters like Shane and William Munny, it continues to captivate audience's imaginations.

The Philosophy of the Western ...

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Overview

There are few genres that capture the hearts of their audiences like the Western. While they are not always true to it, Westerns are tied to, and expressive of, the history of the United States. As such, they serve both to reflect and inform the American psyche. Indeed, the Western is arguably the most iconic and influential genre in American cinema. Through characters like Shane and William Munny, it continues to captivate audience's imaginations.

The Philosophy of the Western features a variety of essays that consider the philosophical significance of Westerns. From classic films such as Fort Apache (1948) and The Wild Bunch (1969) to contemporary films and TV shows such as 3:10 to Yuma (2007), No Country for Old Men (2007), and Deadwood (2004-6), The Philosophy of the Western uses modern philosophical thought to analyze the underlying thematic framework of the genre. Editors Jennifer L. McMahon and B. Steve Csaki gather noted contributors to investigate, among other things, identity, ethics, gender, and animal rights within the western.

Drawing from philosophers as varied as Aristotle, Spinoza, William James and Jean-Paul Sartre, The Philosophy of the Western examines topics including: the epistemological and ethical benefits of solitude and how the Western influences personal identity. The philosophies of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and J.J. Rousseau are likewise invoked to show how Westerns illustrate the nature of human relationships and the necessary conditions of social and political order. The result is a comprehensive study of fundamental questions about morality, identity, and social organization.

Offering an intriguing glimpse into the Western genre, The Philosophy of the Western provides a detailed analysis of the origins and continuing influence of the quintessential American icon.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

""A delightful collection, one that goes a long way toward bridging the fields of philosophy and film studies. At once erudite and readable, many of its essays offer solid summaries of philosophic concepts and movements....those familiar with the classic westerns will find the book a painless way to pick up some philosophy."--American Studies" --

""The authors examine the rise and recent resurgence of the iconic genre of American cinema -- its popularity, its claims on encapsulating American values, and its historical inaccuracies."--Moving Image Archives" --

""These essays, and others, connect rewardingly to ongoing discussions of Westerns in a broad context"--Choice Magazine" --

""The collection is evenly divided between classic and contemporary Westerns, providing a comprehensive overview of the history of the genre" -- Western American Literature" --

""For Western film fams and American scholars alike, The Philosophy of the Western is both enjoyable and enlightening. It will leave you longing to dust off the covers of your favorite Western films and rewatch them with a deeper sense of significance adn newfound appreciation."--Journal of American Studies Association of Texas" --

""These essays make compelling cases"--Western Historical Quarterly" --

""Anyone interested in the mythic grip that Westerns have had and continue to have on the American imaginary will no doubt find something of interest in this collection."--Great Plains Quarterly" --

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813125916
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 5/28/2010
  • Series: The Philosophy of Popular Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer L. McMahon, associate professor and chair of the English and Languages Department at East Central University, is a contributor to The Philosophy of TV Noir, The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese, and The Simpsons and Philosophy. She lives in Stratford, Oklahoma. B. Steve Csaki was most recently a visiting professor at Centre College, where he taughtcourses in philosophy, the humanities, and Japanese. He lives in Stratford, Oklahoma.

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    Posted May 1, 2012

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