The evolution of the Western: The original American novel
Untiedt, Kenneth Lee
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The Western, as it has come to be recognized as a genre, originated in the United States fewer than two hundred years ago. It has since become one of the most popular—and perhaps the most mfluential—genres in American literature. It could even be argued that it is our "National Literature," as it embodies many of the ideals that Americans believe to be inherent in them: fighting for justice, perseverance, and independent success. The Western has had extensive effects on other types of literature, encouraged the westward movement in this country, shaped the film and television industries, and inspired and affected political and social movements which can still be feh today. Respect for the Westem has come slowly, but because it so effectively captures the American ideology, there has been a persistent demand for critical studies of the genre. However, the few studies that do focus on the Western are inherently limited because they each address only specific aspects of the genre, and none clearly defme what is meant by the term "Western." This dissertation is the first study to provide both a comprehensive definition of the Western and an analysis of its evolution. This study will fill the gaps left by other works that have examined the Western only in limited ways, and show how they are related to each other and the genre as a whole. To accomplish this, the study will be presented in two parts: the first consisting of the essential elements of the Western, and the second consisting of the developmental stages of the genre. Because the genre has evolved throughout its history, no single stage of its evolution will be overlooked or held in higher regards than another. The genre has matured greatly from its early days as a romanticized and formulaic form of escapist literature to a level of high art in the case of certain works. This study will show the significance of the genre by defining it and examining its development, not just in one period or by identifying specific authors, but in its entirety.