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Masculinities in American Western Films

A Hyper-Linear History

Emma Hamilton

The «Western» embodies many of the stereotypes of masculinity: rugged, independent men in cowboy hats roam the barren landscapes of the American West, resolving conflicts with guns and tough talk. Where did these cowboys come from? What historical trends led to their emergence on screen?

This book explores the relationship between the Western, film and historical representation and the ways in which masculine gender performance is itself historical. It posits a new interpretation of how history functions on film, termed hyper-linear history. Hyper-linear history creates the possibility of seeing film as a vehicle that makes the past immediately explicit and relevant, rendering historical understandings complex.

The study offers a fresh exploration of American Western films made in the 1950s and 1960s, arguing that many Westerns of this period rely on the post-Civil War on-screen past to make sense of the tumultuous experiences of the period, to various effect. The films especially tap into the ways in which national economic, political, technological and social changes impact the performance of hegemonic masculinities. These films provide insight into the ways in which masculinities are performed and gender crises are expressed, explored and resolved.

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The writing of this book has been facilitated by the support of staff at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Colleagues within the School of Humanities and Social Science and the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre were (and are) generous in their mentorship and support of me as an educator and emerging scholar and were endlessly patient in their discussions of this and other projects, which was very much appreciated! I would especially like to thank Associate Professor Josephine May whose contributions to this volume have improved it immeasurably. I am grateful to bask in her presence. I would also like to thank my family and friends for their love and support. I would especially like to acknowledge my parents, to whom this book is dedicated: my father, Mark, a lover of cowboy flicks (especially The Magnificent Seven), whom I hope to meet again on the trail; and my beautiful mother, Maree, who is still riding alongside and thankfully shared her love of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with me many, many years ago.

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