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[ecrea] CfP Transnationalism and Imperialism: New Perspectives on the Western
Mon Mar 05 17:59:02 GMT 2018
Transnationalism and Imperialism: New Perspectives on the Western
Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3
November 15-16, 2018
Études Montpelliéraines du Monde Anglophone (EMMA EA741), Project 4:
Marianne Kac-Vergne (CORPUS EA4295), Hervé Mayer (EMMA EA741)
and David Roche (CAS EA801)
Keynote speakers: Matthew Carter (University of Essex) and
Andrew Patrick Nelson (Montana State University)
This conference is a follow-up to a symposium entitled “Politics of
the Western: a Revisionist Genre” organized by Hervé Mayer (EMMA
EA741) at Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3 on December 8, 2017.
The aim of this conference is to question the film genre of the
Western as being essentially American by focusing on the transnational
dimension of Western narratives and images, as well as the
circulation, reception and production of Westerns outside the United
The genre has been widely read within the confines of a national
culture and cinema in the U.S. André Bazin and Jean-Louis Rieupeyrout
(1953) famously labeled the Western “the American cinema /par
excellence/,” and film genre studies since have consistently resorted
to a “sociohistorical analysis” to read the genre as the cinematic
expression of an American identity (Le Bris 2012). In recent film
studies, the Western genre is still widely explored, understood and
constructed as an American genre despite overwhelming evidence of
foreign production and global circulation since the invention of
cinema. In doing so, studies of the Western strengthen the
construction of an American exception that the genre—and the myth of
the West it is grounded in—itself promoted. In order to emancipate
studies of the Western from discourses of American exceptionalism,
this conference proposes to connect film genre studies with the recent
field of transnational cinema. Transnational cinema generally refers
to films that cross national borders, as stories, productions and
sometimes both. But the concept of transnationalism can be interpreted
more widely as a repositioning of film studies, in which the “study of
/national/ cinemas must then transform into /transnational/ film
studies” (Lu 1997, emphasis in original). This “critical
transnationalism” approaches film from the viewpoint of international
networks of production and reception rather than from national film
traditions, exploring the complex economic, political and cultural
negotiations between transnational and national along with questions
of “postcoloniality, politics and power” (Higbee and Lim 2010).
Several scholars have pointed out the blind spot of transnationalism
in the study of the Western and started to explore the genre from more
de-centered perspectives. In a 2001 article on Cormac McCarthy, Susan
Kollin called for researchers to abandon the idea of the Western as a
“quintessential American form” and invited them instead to “recognize
that its sensibilities have been shaped by a larger history of
imperialism”. In their respective contributions to /Zoos
humains/(2011), Pascal Blanchard, Eric Deroo and Eric Ames underline
the ideological familiarity between Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and
other spectacles of imperialism at the turn of the 20^th century. In
his study of French colonial cinema, Abdelkader Benali (1998) notices
that “several levels of comparison can be established between the
French colonial cinema and the American Western”, referencing
narrative structure, themes, dramatic content, or what he calls the
“ethno-anthropological dimension” of those genres. Expanding on ideas
put forth by Richard Slotkin (1992) and later by Stanley Corkin
(2004), James Chapman and Nicholas Cull, in the first chapter of
/Projecting Empire/ (2009) which focuses on the British and American
co-productions of empire films in the 1930s, mention the “common
ground” of Western and empire films, again citing narrative structures
(expansion, taming of the frontier, clash of civilization and
savagery). These various arguments seem to invite the following
hypothesis: that the Western is not so much an American exception, but
rather the American expression of a transnational ideology and culture
of imperialism. That only a limited percentage of American Westerns
feature the Indian wars and territorial conquest does not change the
fact that the entire genre explores racial and gender hierarchies, as
well as issues of progress and violence inherited from, and shaped by,
a history of imperialism.
Along with the ideological and narrative similarities between the
American Western and other spectacles of imperialism, another largely
unexplored field of study is that of the circulation and reception of
Westerns outside the United States. Quantitative studies on the
exportation of American Westerns abroad are needed to specify the
vague estimates presently available, as well as studies on the
marketing strategies developed by studios to sell their products
outside the United States. One recent step to answer this question is
Russell Meuff’s 2013 study of the target marketing of John Wayne films
in 1950s France. If Hollywood’s construction of foreign markets is
important to understand how producers conceived the appeal of their
products beyond national borders, the reception of American Westerns
abroad is as important to understand how those products interacted
with, and contributed to shape, national or local cultures. Talking
about /Cheyenne Autumn/ in a 1967 interview with Peter Bogdanovich,
John Ford mentioned the interest of European audiences for the Indian
as one of the reasons for making the film. This interest needs to be
verified. More specifically, it begs the question: to what extent
does/did the American Western crystallize national or local issues of
imperialism? One hypothesis that could be addressed is that American
Westerns acted as a foil to audiences of imperial nations: it
represented both a foreignness that allowed for dissociating criticism
(Americans murdered the “Indian”) and a familiarity that was
exhilarating (the white man’s epic), the level of historical
dissociation being proportionate to the guiltless enjoyment of an
imperial story. Some scholars point to more complex power relations at
work in the circulation and reception of American Westerns. One
example is Peter Bloom’s contribution to /Westerns: Films Through
History/ (2001), in which the author explores how the reception of
populist American Westerns in 1930s Algeria affected French rule in
the colony. Such reception studies can shed new light on the issue of
American cultural imperialism.
In addition to the circulation and reception of American Westerns
abroad, one last area of transnational discussion of the Western is
that of foreign productions. Of the three areas of study mapped out
for this conference, this is the most well-known and explored. Studies
of non-American westerns have developed since the 1980s (Frayling
1981), focusing predominantly on Italian Westerns that were successful
in the U.S. and worldwide (those of Sergio Leone and, to a lesser
extent, Sergio Corbucci), but there remains much work to consider the
diversity and complexity of Western productions outside the U.S.,
notably by considering how the genre’s imperialist thrust—the economic
conquest of space and celebration of hard masculinity at the expense
of a racial other—has been used to reflect on national and
international concerns. Attention to the transfer of Western motifs
and figures (costumes, color schemes, songs and music, the use of
low-angle shots and narrative montage to emphasize heroic feats, the
advance of civilization, etc.) to address national concerns and
sometimes critique imperialist ideologies would be welcome. A first
step in that direction was taken with the recent publications of
/International Westerns /(Miller 2013) and /Critical Perspectives on
the Western/ (Broughton 2016, which break new grounds in focusing on
reinterpretations of the Western by foreign industries such as
Hungaria, Brazil, Bangladesh and South Africa. /International
Westerns/ is especially noteworthy for its attempt to fill in the gap
of a “book-length survey of the breadth of the international Westerns”
[xvi], but, while the book crosses the borders of the American
Western, it reestablishes those borders in its treatment of foreign
Westerns as local rewritings of the genre within national cinematic
traditions. The extent to which non-American Westerns reinstate the
idea of an exceptionally American genre even as they appropriate the
genre remains to be assessed.
The following venues of investigation can be addressed:
ðThe American Western as the expression of a transnational culture of
+ comparative studies of the Frontier/Western myth and other colonial
or imperial narratives;
+ transnational origins of Frontier/Western mythology;
+ comparative studies of the American Western and other colonial or
+ interactions of the American Western with other national cultures
(appropriation, acculturation, redefinitions).
ðThe American Western abroad: circulation and reception:
+ economic, cultural, political implications; American marketing
+ the reception of American Westerns in foreign countries and the
degree to which they resonate with national cultures of imperialism.
ðThe non-American Western: the production of Westerns abroad:
+ case studies of non-American English-language productions
(Australia, Canada, Italy, etc.);
+ comparative studies of American Westerns and non-English-language
productions (Argentina, Brazil, German, French, Manchuria, etc.).
ðTransnational studies of the Western: definitions, theory, practices:
+ Surveys of national academic corpuses on the Western;
+ Comparative studies of national academic corpuses.
Proposals in English (350 words including a short bio and
bibliography) must be sent to Marianne Kac-Vergne
((marianne.kac /at/ u-picardie.fr) <mailto:(marianne.kac /at/ u-picardie.fr)>),
Hervé Mayer ((hervmayer /at/ gmail.com) <mailto:(hervmayer /at/ gmail.com)>) and
David Roche ((mudrockca /at/ gmail.com) <mailto:(mudrockca /at/ gmail.com)>) by
March 31, 2018. They will be reviewed by the scientific committee.
Notification of acceptation will be sent to participants by May 1, 2018.
Scientific Committee: Mathilde Arrivé, Jean-François Baillon, Zachary
Baqué, Lee Broughton, Matthew Carter, Christophe Chambost, Claude
Chastagner, Florent Christol, Claire Dutriaux, Sarah Hatchuel, Gilles
Menegaldo, Monica Michlin, Andrew Patrick Nelson, Anne-Marie
Paquet-Deyris, Peter Stanfield, Vincent Souladié, Clémentine Tholas-Disset
Altman, Rick. /Film/Genre/. London: BFI, 1999
Benali, Abdelkader. /Le cinéma colonial au Maghreb : l’imaginaire en
trompe-l’œil/. Paris: Cerf, 1998.
Blanchard,Pascal /et al. /(eds.). /Zoos humains et exhibitions
coloniales : 150 ans d’inventions de l’Autre/. Paris: La Découverte, 2011.
Bloom, Peter J. “Beyond the Western Frontier: Reappropriations of the
‘Good Bad-man’ in France, the French Colonies, and Contemporary
Algeria.” Ed. /Westerns: Films through History/. Ed. Janet Walker. New
York: Routledge, 2001, 197-218.
Bogdanovich, Peter. /John Ford/. London: Studio Vista, 1967.
Broughton, Lee (ed.). /Critical Perspectives on the Western: From /A
Fistful of Dollars/ to /Django Unchained. London: Rowman and
Campbell, Neil. /Post-Westerns: Cinema, Region, West/. Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 2013.
Carter, Matthew. /Myth of the Western: New Perspectives on Hollywood’s
Frontier Narrative/. Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Chapman, James and Nicholas John Cull. /Projecting Empire: Imperialism
and Popular Cinema/. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009.
Corkin, Stanley. /Cowboys as Cold Warriors: The Western and U.S.
History/. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2004.
Durovicová Nataša and Kathleen E. Newman. /World Cinemas,
Transnational Perspectives/. New York: Routledge, 2010.
Frayling, Christopher. /Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from
Karl May to Sergio Leone/. New York: I.B. Tauris, 1981.
Higbee, Will and Song Hwee Lim. “Concepts of transnational cinema:
towards a critical transnationalism in film studies”. /Transnational
Cinemas/ 1.1 (2010): 7-21.
Kollin, Susan. “Genre and the Geographies of Violence: Cormac McCarthy
and the Contemporary Western.” /Contemporary Literature/ 42^. 3
Le Bris, Louis. /Le Western : grandeur ou décadence d’un mythe ?/
Paris: l’Harmattan, 2012.
Lottini, Irene. “When Buffalo Bill Crossed the Ocean: Native American
Scenes in Early Twentieth Century European Culture.” /European Journal
of American Culture/ 31.3 (Oct 2012): 187-203.
Lu Sheldon Hsiao-peng. /Transnational Chinese Cinema: Identity
Nationhood, Gender/. Honolulu, HA: University of Hawai’i Press, 1997.
Meeuf, Russell. /John Wayne’s World: Transnational Masculinity in the
Fifties/. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2013.
Miller, Cynthia J., and A. Bowdoin Van Riper (eds.). /International
Westerns: Re-Locating the Frontier/. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2014.
Nelson, Andrew Patrick (ed.), /Contemporary Westerns: Film and
Television since 1990/. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013.
Rieupeyrout, Jean-Louis. /Le Western ou Le cinéma américain par
excellence/. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1953.
Slotkin, Richard. /Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in
Twentieth-Century America/. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1998 .
David Roche, Professor of Film Studies / professeur d’études
Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, France
DEMA / CAS (EA 801)
Vice-President of SERCIA (www.sercia.net <http://www.sercia.net/>)
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