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Shane and the Language of Men

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submitted on 2023-03-15, 11:51 and posted on 2023-07-13, 07:28 authored by Jesse Gerlach Ulmer

Jane Tompkins has argued that a deeply conflicted relationship exists between men and language in the Western. Deploying too much language emasculates Western heroes, men who privilege action over talk. For support, Tompkins turns to a number of moments in Shane, the 1953 film adaptation of the 1949 novel of the same title by Jack Schaefer. Tompkins argues that the film constructs a model of masculinity that wholly rejects language, a move that is destructive and exploitative to self and others. However, a close reexamination of the novel reveals a model of masculinity that is more positive and flexible towards language and gender than Tompkins’s views on the Western suggest. A close rereading of the novel shows that men in Westerns do not always use talk and silence to subjugate women and others, and that the valuing of language over action does not always end in violence or exploitation. Furthermore, the film adaptation of the novel will be examined, a work that occupies a more cherished place in American culture than the novel, a situation that is the reverse of traditional cultural hierarchies in which the literary source material is privileged over the film adaptation. Ultimately, the novel and film are engaging in different ways, yet Schaefer’s novel, rather than being relegated to middle school literature classrooms, rewards serious critical and scholarly attention, particularly in the context of the film adaptation and critical discourse on the representation of masculinity in the Western. 

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Published in: arcadia
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  • English


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Publication Year

  • 2018

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This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Institution affiliated with

  • Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (-2023)

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