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The Literary Roots of Southern Westerns

Les racines littéraires du Western Southern
Lauric Guillaud

Résumés

Cet article retrace les sources littéraires du genre cinématographique du Western, et vise à démontrer que ces sources empruntent au gothique, mode sudiste par excellence, ou trouvent leur origine directement dans le Sud des États-Unis, notamment dans la littérature américaine des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. La géographie mouvante des États-Unis, où l’Ouest se déplace à mesure de l’avancée de la Frontière, fait des états liminaux comme le Kentucky un lieu de rencontre pour le Western et le Southern. LeWestern s’est fréquemment réapproprié des codes sudistes, notamment ceux de la violence, de l’individualisme et de l’honneur. Les paysages, comme Monument Valley dans le Western et le swamp dans le film sudiste, dénotent l’obsession américaine pour la dichotomie entre sauvagerie et civilisation, dichotomie qui transcende largement l’Ouest de la Frontière.

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  • 1 D. H. Lawrence, “Fenimore Cooper’s White Novels,” Studies in Classic American Literature. Online (...)

At present the demon of the place and the unappeased ghosts of the dead Indians act within the unconscious or under-conscious soul of the white Americans.1
D. H. Lawrence

  • 2 A low-budget subgenre of Western films made by a European, especially an Italian film com (...)

1In Django Unchained (2012), Quentin Tarantino pays homage to Spaghetti Westerns2 and his favorite film director, Sergio Leone. Yet at the same time, he considers the film as a “Southern”:

  • 3 Charles McGrath, “Quentin’s World,” The New York Times, December 23, 2012.

I’ve always been influenced by the Spaghetti Western. I used to describe Pulp Fiction as a rock ‘n’ roll Spaghetti Western with the surf music standing in for Ennio Morricone. I don’t know if Django is a Western proper. It’s a Southern. I’m playing Western stories in the genre, but with a Southern backdrop.3

  • 4 “I’d like to do a Western. But rather than set it in Texas, have it in slavery times. Wit (...)

2Tarantino’s wish, six years before the actual release of Django, to “do a Southern,” triggered new debates concerning the generic contours and traits of the thus labelled film.4 Today, five years afterwards, Django Unchained appears less geographically specific to the South than one might expect. As Alyssa Rosenberg has observed:

  • 5 Alyssa Rosenberg, “Django Unchained is a Western. Not a Southern,” Thinkprogress, June 7, (...)

Much of the landscape that Django and the man who freed him ride through is framed as Western rather than coded as Southern, whether it’s drought-stricken land, men riding horses down small-town streets into the sunset, or wide open spaces instead of trees heavy with Spanish moss.5

3Tarantino’s controversial statement regarding his “Southern” Western leads us to reconsider one of the most complex issues related to the canonic definition of Western movies which, as we know, are generally set West of the Mississippi River during a period stretching from the early 1800s until about 1915, with strong emphasis on the key thirty years between 1860 and 1890. However, if we stick to this premise, we are compelled to leave aside a fair number of movies shot, or allegedly taking place in the East or in the South.

  • 6 Jean-Louis Leutrat, Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues, Les Cartes de l’Ouest, Paris: A. Colin, 1997, (...)
  • 7 Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, Cambridge, Mass.: Ha (...)

4According to Jean-Louis Leutrat, the word “Western,” applied to the cinema, dates back to 1910, before its popularization in the 1920s, regardless of the fact that the first Westerns were shot in the East.6 By definition, Eastern movies thus preceded the Westerns, reflecting the history of the Western expansion which started in the East; Virginia providing, through Jefferson, “the geographical insight and the strategic planning for the first half-century of westward advance.”7

  • 8 Lawrence Clark Powell quoted in Jean-Louis Leutrat, Western, archéologie d’un genre, (...)

5On the other hand, it may seem paradoxical to attribute the label “Western” to scores of movies taking place in Texas or in the Southwest of the United States. The question of geographical limits of the Western genre has been raised, for instance, by Lawrence Clark Powell who refers to what he calls “my West Southwest” (including parts of Texas, New Mexico and California), emphasizing that “its imprecise boundaries are subject to endless disputes.”8 To classify these films, it would therefore be difficult not to take into account their geographical locations and settings, furthermore complicated by unstable borders, as in classic Westerns set on the Mexican border, such as Vera Cruz (Robert Aldrich, 1954), The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960), Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946); or in the hybrid landscapes created by Spaghetti Westerns.

  • 9 Lee Clark Mitchell, “Why, Monument Valley?,” in H. B. Pettey (ed.), The Western, Vashon I (...)
  • 10 Let us note that Monument Valley, formally a Navajo Reservation since 1934, is not a vall (...)
  • 11 Lee Clark Mitchell, op. cit., 118.
  • 12 Leslie Fiedler, Le Retour du peau-rouge, Paris: Le Seuil, 1971, 16.
  • 13 John Cawelti, The Six-gun Mystique Sequel, Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State Univers (...)

6It is worth remembering that Monument Valley (where John Ford shot seven of his films) is “hardly characteristic of the West”9 since the area lies in Northeastern Arizona and Southern Utah.10 While the Western is “the only genre named after a region,”11 it seems that the official definition of the genre – qualified essentially in terms of geography – is more complex than its perception as a region may appear. From the evidence we have gathered, it seems that landscape matters more than topographic fidelity. Leslie Fiedler astutely notes that American geography is more “mythological” than what people think.12 And John Cawelti points out that “the Western is essentially defined by setting” […] a symbolic setting representing the boundary between order and chaos, between tradition and newness.”13

  • 14 Simón Cherpitel, “Defining the Western,” <https://cinemacom.com/westerns>, accessed on July 21, 2017 [en erreur</https> (...)

7According to Simon Cherpitel, the Western is determined by its location in a land which is “undefined or striving for development, primitive and blasted by natural untamed elements.”14 Western gimmicks (protagonists riding horses, participating in shootouts, defending themselves against Natives, etc.) may explain why such film productions as Henry King’s Untamed (1955), set in South Africa, are sometimes labeled “Westerns.” The very definition of the Western seems to be “open range” – imprecise and boundaryless. What is certain, however, is that great Westerns rely on a number of myths and legends that preexisted the advent of the cinema.

8Tracing the literary origins of the Western proves that it is difficult to uphold a strict definition of the genre in sheer terms of time and space because some of its major roots are essentially Southern. Such familiar characters as vigilantes, and themes such as vengeance, sadistic violence, hatred, as well as the ambivalent attitudes towards Natives, started to emerge in books in the mid-19th century. Not only were the writers themselves Southern, but they wrote about the marshes and deserts of the South, delineating a structure that was to reappear in later plots of so-called “Western” movies. As we shall see, some of the originality of the works evoked in this article lies in the impact of topography on the characters’ often peculiar or violent behaviour, as if the American wilderness repeatedly contaminated the human psyche, generating a form of moral transgression.

The 17th and 18th century ancestors of the Westerns

9Most historians agree that the literary Western was created in the early 19th century by James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), the main reference being Cooper’s five Leatherstocking novels of the 1820s and 1840s. As Sara E. Quay recalls in Westward expansion:

  • 15 Sarah E. Quay, Westward expansion, Westport, London: Greenwood Press, 2002, 153.

Sermons, travel journals, and captivity narratives were all preludes to the founding tenets of the Western novel created by James Fenimore Cooper in his Leatherstocking series. Beginning with The Pioneers published in 1823, the series of five books was a tremendous commercial success. Each successive volume moved further back in time, to the days of the earliest settlers described in The Deerslayer (1841). The intervening novels, in order of publication, included The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), and The Pathfinder (1840). Centered on the White hero of the series, Natty Bumppo, the Leatherstocking novels established the western genre as male-dominated, existing on the border between civilization and wilderness, and focuses on the self-reliance of its hero. The books quickly became best-sellers and ushered in the official era of the literary western.15

  • 16 Henry Nash Smith, op. cit., 145.

10Another important source is the hugely influential American landscape painting and its theatrical natural spaces – a visual model ready-for-the taking by film-makers. But as already suggested, at the outset early Westerns did, in fact, ignore the West, since they were shot mainly in the East. More generally speaking, the American advance to the Pacific is hardly a monopoly of the West, for as Henry Nash Smith notes in Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth: “The history of western exploration is filled with Southern names, from Boone and Lewis and Clark to James Clyman of Virginia and John Charles Frémont of South Carolina.”16

  • 17 Quoted in “Introduction,” Giles Gunn (ed.), Early American Writing, New York: Penguin C (...)

11Yet, there were earlier models, such as Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of captivity (A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs Mary Rowlandson, 1682), which provided the first American mythology and the first American best-seller, with the popular themes of threat and deliverance, victimization and redemption. Powerfully enough, Mary Rowlandson described her Indian captors as “a company of hell-hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting, as if they would have torn our very hearts out.”17 Needless to say, the devilish Frontier, dramatized and perceived as sensational, was beginning to sell.

  • 18 Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a sleep-walker, Philadelphia: H. M (...)

12In the late 18th century, Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810) explored both the heart of darkness of the Frontier and the demonic abysses of the interior self. In Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a sleep-walker, the hero evolves passively among uncontrollable forces, as though the landscape itself were in control of the action.18 As he is eventually “bewildered” and transformed into a creature of the wilderness, we see the common framework of future Western movies graducally come into shape.

  • 19 Letters From An American Farmer by J. Hector St. John De Crèvecoeur, Letter IV, (...)
  • 20 Ibidem.

13The enlightened 18th century did not put an end to the potential power of darkness of the Frontier. In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782), J. Hector St. John De Crèvecoeur alludes to the Indians’ dreadful plight in the following words: “They have all disappeared either in the wars which the Europeans carried on against them, or else they have mouldered away.”19 In Letter XII (“Distresses of a Frontier Man”) the tone changes, as the writer reviles the “demons of war” and moans over his “tedious, sleepless nights” with a “musket in his hand” to protect his children and wife who “just escaped from the flames and the scalping knife.” Yet, in the end, he unexpectedly contemplates “transporting himself and his family” to an Indian village, “reverting into a state approaching nearer to that of nature.”20

14Crèvecoeur’s Letter III anticipates his decision to move away from the Frontier and his white fellow-countrymen. He criticizes the “back settlers,” “no better than carnivorous animals of a superior rank,” calling them a “half civilized, half savage” “mongrel breed.”21 At this point, the Letters already propose an exciting digest of the tensions that were to characterize Western movies, namely by featuring a deep sense of loss and an ambivalent attitude towards the Natives. Even the South does not go unheeded when Crèvecoeur, during his visit to Charleston (South Carolina), denounces the “barbarous treatment” of slaves. On his way to a plantation, he sees “a Negro, suspended in a cage, and left there to expire.” “Had I had a ball in my gun, I certainly should have despatched him,” he writes in Letter IX.22 Crèvecoeur pertinently manages to collect all the calamities of the Frontier, from the East to the South. In so doing, he becomes one of the very first writers to examine the effects of the environment on human degeneration.

15In the texts of Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s (1748-1816) Frontier democracy constantly borders on anarchy. In his multi-volume work, Modern chivalry – a long prose satire which came out in installments between 1792 and 1815 –, Brackenbridge seeks to expose the darker sides of the new political system of the young American constitutional republic influenced by the Enlightenment. Even when humorous and quixotic in tone in its obversations of the country (its political system, but also of its Frontier life), the narrator sadly observes the perfectibility of man:

It is a melancholy consideration to consider how nearly the brutal nature borders on the human; because it leads to a reflection that the difference may be in degree, not in kind. But on the most diligent consideration that I have been able to give the subject, it would seem to me, that no reasonable doubt can exist of there being a distinction in kind.23

  • 24 See Lauric Guillaud, La terreur et le sacré/La nuit gothique améric (...)
  • 25 See Lauric Guillaud, “Ghosts on the Frontier,” in Max Duperray (ed.), Gothic N.E.W.S., (...)

16Like Brackenridge’s chevalier, Farago – disappointed in his efforts to impose reason on his fellow Americans –, Crévecoeur’s back country accounts tend to equate the Frontier with bestiality. Echoing the works of other 18th-century writers who seek to outline the American culture, savagery was not only “Indian” but that of the uncivilized Whites who were conquering the Western regions. One might therefore claim that American fiction began in a Gothic mode,24 and so did the Western25 – infused with a similarly obsessive terror of transgression, as crossing the border meant going over the line both physically and morally, focusing on the fear of failure, imbalance or slippage. Or worse, of separation, possession, invasion and captivity – violence, captivity and metamorphosis constituting the major aspects of this strain of Frontier imagery, also when dealing with the non-rational forces the indigenous “Native American” had come to represent.

The 19th century roots of the Western

17An interesting phenomenon affected the history of the genre in the 19th century. There was a change of background – a slow topological displacement from the East towards Kentucky and the Southern areas, and an intensification of violence that was to be reflected by a number of Western movies, including the early ones, such as The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (D. W. Griffith, 1913) where an infant is murdered by an Indian. The Frontier stands precisely for the kind of territory of primeval darkness that gradually encroaches on Southern territories.

18The basic idea of Robert Montgomery Bird’s (1806-1854) Nick of the Woods, or, The Jibbenainosay (1837) undoubtedly came from the Kentucky frontier legend (Daniel Boone, “America’s first cowboy”). Bird had also read James Hall’s (1793-1868) story “The Indian Hater” (1829) where the hero who sees his family burn to death by Indians in their Frontier cabin, tracks them down and kills them with insane hatred, randomly murdering even friendly Indians. Unlike Fenimore Cooper, Bird was not prone to the idealization of human nature on the Frontier, depicted as a zone of danger and violence where characters easily lost their way and their humanity.

  • 26 Robert Montgomery Bird, Nick of the Woods or the jibbenainosay, Philadelphia: (...)
  • 27 Frederick S. Frank, Through the Pale Door: A Guide to and Through the American Gothic, (...)

19The Kentucky forest is haunted by a mysterious creature the Indians call Jibbenainosay (“the Spirit-that-walks”), a bloodthirsty supernatural being entirely dedicated to their extermination. Disguised as an Indian, this “great ghost or devil” mutilates and slaughters every red man he finds, leaving a bloody cross drawn on its victims’ chests. Identity is, however, the real subject of the novel, as beneath the gory spirit we find a gentle Quaker, Nathan Slaughter who was forced to witness his wife and children brutally butchered by Shawnee warriors. The alleged monster’s double life – a typical Gothic theme – also emphasizes the dual side of the American character. Nathan Slaughter is a bewildered spirit of revenge, the spectral and schizoid embodiment of the Frontier, and the spectral extension of the wilderness: “He is neither man nor beast, but a great ghost or devil that knife cannot harm nor bullet touch.”26 Throughout the book, Bird keeps connecting his “wild” hero to an environment which is “forbidding,” “gloomy” or “awe-inspiring.” Even the decaying vegetation emphasizes the waning of humane feelings, as if Nick had internalized the vehement tensions of the wilderness. “Lurking beneath the innocence and optimism,” notes F. S. Frank, “there is something dark and dreadful and capable of primal evil,”27 and obviously enough, this “primal evil” emanates from the primeval wilderness.

  • 28 Gary Hoppenstand, “Justified Bloodshed: R. M. Bird’s Nick of the Wood and the Origins o (...)

20What we have here is a precursor figure that anticipates the character of Jim Lassiter, an ex-Confederate Army officer (Richard Boone) who wreaks revenge on Apache Indians who have massacred his family in Douglas Gordon’s Rio Conchos (1964), the eponymous hero of Sidney Pollack’s Jeremiah Johnson (1972) and a number of other movies featuring vigilantes, such as Westward Ho (Robert N. Bradbury, 1935) and The Night Riders (George Sherman, 1939). Although Kentucky was not strictly speaking a Southern state, the themes of Robert Montgomery Bird’s novel remain intimated associated with some of the obsessions of Southern mythology. Gary Hoppenstand remarks that “Bird’s novel can be seen as one of the first tales of heroic vigilantism in American literature,” providing “one of the most powerful archetypes in all of American culture.”28 The ambiguousness or ambivalence of the vigilante, both positive (a heroic individual achieving Justice) and negative (one who defies the Law in the name of vengeance), were to be core issues in such Westerns as Ted Post’s Hang ‘Em High (1968) where an innocent man (Clint Eastwood) barely survives a lynching, before reemerging as a lawman determined to hunt down the lynch mob and brings the vigilantes to justice.

  • 29 John Pendleton Kennedy, Horse-Shoe Robinson: A Tale of Tory Ascendancy, New York: Ameri (...)

21Another interesting example is John Pendleton Kennedy whose career as a man of letters began in 1832 with the publication of Swallow Barn, or a Sojourn in the Old Dominion in which he sketches the life on a Virginia antebellum plantation. His second and most successful novel, Horse-Shoe Robinson: A Tale of the Tory Ascendency, is set during the American Revolution in the mountain region of Virginia and the Carolinas.29 Although a historical romance, the novel contains typical features found in future Westerns, namely the figure of a traitor, a plotted ambush and captivity. The hero named Horse-Shoe shares the same wily, indefatigable spirit as James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo and maneuvers his way through the enemy territory, cleverly outsmarting his pursuers.

22The story culminates at the Battle of King’s Mountain where all parties converge. Kennedy counterbalances the novel’s romance with references to actual battles and to the geography of the Carolinas. Consequently, despite his tendency towards melodrama, in Horse-Shoe Robinson Kennedy provides an insightful perspective into the fratricidal nature of the American Revolution, foreshadowing the strife that lay ahead: the American Civil War. His story inspired numerous future movies, among which Vera Cruz (Robert Aldrich, 1954), Border River (George Sherman, 1954) and Incident at Phantom Hill (Earl Bellamy, 1966).

  • 30 Guy Rivers (1834), Richard Hurdis (1838) and its sequel, Border Beagles (1840); Beauchampe; or, The (...)

23The principal literary figure of the Old South is William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) who was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Long underestimated by literary historians, Simms can be referred to as the Southern version of James Fenimore Cooper with a series of “Border Romances.”30 Simms’ second novel, Guy Rivers: A Tale of Georgia (1834), introduced his readers to new personages of romance: Southern backwoodsmen, squatters and Indians, North Carolina mountaineers and Yankee peddlers. This was the beginning of a long series of stories that highlighted not only the heroism of the settlers of Carolina and the Southwest, but the bravery and virtues of their Indian foes, as shown in the novel The Yemassee (1835).

  • 31 William Gilmore Simms, Richard Hurdis, Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1838, 66. (My emphas (...)

24In Richard Hurdis; or, The Avenger of Blood (1838), Simms asks a haunting question, already raised by Crèvecoeur a century earlier: what is the meaning of border violence? Why does the Frontier spawn such corrupt populations? Reflection leads the hero to the melancholy conclusion that the people’s wandering habits have resulted in a breakdown of the structure of communal living: “The morals not less than the manners of our people are diseased by the licence of the wilderness; and the remoteness of the white settler from his former associates approximate him to the savage feebleness of the Indian […].”31 In other words, people are presented as alienated and contaminated by the demonic “Spirit of Place,” transformed into strange hybrids, spectral parodies of civilization.

  • 32 William Gilmore Simms, “Grayling,” Tales of the South, Columbia: University of South Ca (...)
  • 33 Edgar Allan Poe, “William Gilmore Simms,” The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. I (...)

25In 1845, Simms published a tale entitled “Grayling; or, Murder Will Out,”32 which the fellow Southerner Edgar Allan Poe claimed to be “the best ghost-story ever written by an American.”33 In the story, the ghost of a murdered officer turns to his friend James Grayling to help him bring the murderer to justice. Strikingly enough, the apparition of the Inconceivable and the disclosure of the Truth (the discovery of the corpse) take place in a gloomy marsh, in the middle of a desert. This was one of the first atypical Westerns of American literature, meaning that the idea of crossing genres goes back to the heyday of the genre. Not even the supernatural eluded the Western, as evidenced by the films The Phantom Empire (Otto Brower, B. Reeves Eason, 1935), Riders of the Whistling Skull (Mack V. Wright, 1937), The Beast of Hollow Mountain (Edward Nassour, Ismael Rodríguez, 1956), Curse of the Undead (Edward Dein, 1959), Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (William Beaudine, 1966) and Clint Eastwood’s apocalyptic films High Plains Drifter (1973) and Pale Rider (1985) – most of which were shot in the Southwest.

26A significant change impacted American fiction as the civilizing spirit of the Frontier imposed violence, eliminating Natives and jeopardizing the lawlessness of the wilderness. Paradoxically, the more powerful a civilization is, the more precarious it appears to be, sometimes reduced to a thin veneer. This is highlighted by the simultaneous apparition of a new “hero” who supplanted the malevolent Indian, the white man now out-savaging the savage. Indianized on the fringe of two worlds – like Daniel Boone or Leatherstocking – he turned his back on humanness and succumbed to the demons of outlawry. Many writers were inspired by Bird’s Nick of the Woods; among them John Hovey Robinson (Black Ralph, the Forest Fiend; or, The Wanderers of the West, A Tale of Wood and Wild, 1851), Emerson Bennett (The Phantom of the Forest; A Tale of the Dark and Bloody Ground, 1868) or Charles Wilkins Webber (“Jack Long,” 1853).

  • 34 See Sanford E. Marovitz’s article : “Poe’s Reception of C. W. Webber’s Gothic Western,” (...)

27When Webber brought out his Tales of the Southern Border in 1853, he introduced the collection with “Jack Long; or, The Shot in the Eye,” a “Western” thriller in print since 1844. It was highly praised by Edgar Poe who noted in his preface that it was a true tale, and that he had been in Texas during the time (1840s).34 The background is overtly Southern, for Webber’s yarn opens during the time of the Regulators, when Texas ranchers employed mercenary lawmen to maintain order (the Shelby County Texas Regulators affair in 1839). As the Regulators’ actions became too radical, a counter-vigilante group called the Moderators was formed. The conflict was rooted in a series of land-related disputes in the area on the American-Mexican border. Violence between the two factions escalated, however, and spread to other East Texas counties, leaving at least ten people dead.

  • 35 A Misunderstood Boy (D. W. Griffith, 1913), Broncho Billy and the Vigilante (...)

28In Webber’s story inspired by the conflict, some Regulators misuse their power for nefarious ends, brutally beating and killing Jack Long. Later on, Jack reappears in the form of a wild and primitive man, to hunt down, one by one, all the Regulators, shooting their eyes out with miraculous, long-range shots. Only after carrying out his revenge can the protagonist return to his wife and children, and to his peaceful pastoral existence. This core plot would become a standard of the genre in a number of Westerns, such as Max Brand’s The Rancher’s Revenge (1934) and many “Vigilante” movies.35 Most of them take place in the Southwest, as their heroes tend to follow Southern tracks; three of them – Broncho Billy, Hopalong Cassidy and Red Ryder – paving the way for the roles of the later iconic Western actor, Clint Eastwood.

  • 36 Henry Nash Smith, op. cit., 72.

29According to Henry Nash Smith, Webber’s “Jack Long; or, The Shot in the Eye” was a “sensational success.”36 Among the darker elements that would have appealed to Poe is the revenge motif, the ritual slayings, the symbolic regression to a primitive state, and the theme of the divided self. In addition to all this, Poe may have found in Webber’s tale a sort of delineation of the Southern agrarian ideal, as voiced by Jack Long’s blissful life in the Texan wilderness with his family.

  • 37 Sanford E. Marovitz, “Poe’s Reception of C. W. Webber’s Gothic Western,” op. cit., 11.
  • 38 Charles Wilkins Webber, “Jack Long, or, The Shot in the Eye,” Tales of the Southern Bor (...)

30Like “Nick of the Woods,” “Jack Long” is a “lone seeder-turned-killer,”37 determined to avenge a wrong (a nearly fatal whipping that foreshadows Eastwood’s 1973 film High Plains Drifter). Until identified, he is believed to be a supernatural creature, “the Bearded Madman” or “the Bearded Ghost.”38 When killing their enemies, both Nathan and Jack leave recognizable marks on the corpses; both are attacked and left for dead before wreaking their vengeance, and both similarly suffer from apparent psychological disorders caused by trauma, before regressing to beastliness during their killing sprees.

  • 39 Ibidem, 28.
  • 40 Ibid., 35.
  • 41 Ibidem., 36.

31From a simple hunter leading a blissful life on the plains with wife and children, Jack Long thus turns into a primitive avenger in sharp contrast with the mythical figure he used to embody. After the revenge, love replaces hate, completing a cycle that closes on the extirpation of evil. As if raised from the dead, Jack returns, wearing buckskin like a primitive man, and resembling a spectral figure that makes one think of Sidney Pollack’s hero in Jeremiah Johnson: “a tall, gaunt, skeleton-like figure, dressed in skins, with the hair out – a confounded long beard- and such eyes!”39 Like the ghost of “Grayling,” Jack haunts the Frontier to mete out justice: “Was it, indeed, some supernatural agent of judgment, visited upon their enormities?”40 Anticipating Clint Eastwood’s movies, akin to a Calvinistic God of vengeance (Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider, 1985), Jack has the almost magical power to implacably gaze into the truth, with “keen, sepulchral eyes shining steadily through the gloom.”41

32Whatever the backdrop, the Western has mostly been associated with violence. But, as Scott Simmon puts it:

  • 42 Scott Simmon, The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre’s Firs (...)

Violence was historically truer of the Old South and to a certain extent remains true of the newer South – especially the high regard for “individualism,” the valuation of the rituals of “honor” as a justification for violence, and the longs survival of a vigilante tradition of local justice. Indeed the types of murder that Western legends claim as so distinctive to the West – personal quarrels, barroom gunfights, killing over insults – remain statistically much more common in the South than in any other region including the West. There are a variety of reasons why the Western would not admit how much it takes from the reality of the Old South, but chief among them is that to do so would be to admit how far such Western violence is from its mythic justification.42

33This reflection would tend to confirm the importance of the literary roots of the genre, often grounded in brutal violence. The Frontier, indeed, stands for the zone of danger and violence, both in the literary and geographical sense, where the protagonists easily lose their way, both symbolically and literally.

The ambivalent Southern space: the swamp

  • 43 Jean-Louis Leutrat, op. cit., 9.

34My last point concerns the role of the Southern landscape in Westerns. As John Ford once said, “The real star of my Westerns has always been the land. ” The emergence of what Jean-Louis Leutrat calls the “synthetic” Western (and the “synthetic” West)43 across an array of cultural practices in America – from rodeos to novels and pulp magazines, from paintings to the work of historians – appears to impose a natural prevalence of Western settings obvious in most movies. But the reality is more complex.

  • 44 François de la Bretèque, “Le Paysage dans le Western,” in G. Camy (ed.), Western, que r (...)
  • 45 Literally “a historical dead angle.”
  • 46 Quoted by François de la Bretèque, op. cit., 60.

35It is likely that the concurrent emergence of the “Western,” as a body of films and as a generic category, has “blurred” the specificity of some of its typical locales, also to include a certain number of recognizably Southern settings. Whatever the case, there is a universal quality to Western movies, not only in terms of plot constructions, but in terms of settings, and many directors have cheated over the historical landscape. As François de la Bretèque has underlined : “les lieux de tournage ne coïncident que rarement avec les lieux diégétiques.”44 Michel Foucher refers to “un angle mort historique45 made up of Nevada, Wyoming, North Arizona, South Utah and Colorado where lots of Westerns were shot.46

  • 47 See Paul Carmignani, “L’Esprit des lieux,” in André Muraire (dir.) Espaces et paysages des États-Un (...)

36Through the decades, American space has been “reconstructed” in film after film, the spectators becoming accustomed to the harshness of the wilderness – its desolate landscapes, the beauty of its wide open spaces, mountain ranges, plains and canyons. While in more mythic terms, the Western seems to encapsulate the opposition and shifting between heaven and hell, the South seems to have sought to rival the West as well as the East regarding landscape symbolism. Indeed, a number of recurrent places in Southern fiction – the Blue Ridge mountains, the Shenandoah valley, the Chesapeake Bay – compete with the celebrated spaces of the North-East, the Catskills, the Niagara Falls, the Hudson Valley, and other early symbolic spaces of the nation. Over and over again, the South has emphasized the specificity of its typical settings and the existence of violent, pitiless landscapes, a real “spirit of the place,”47 a genius loci that generally inspires a feeling of anxiety, as shown by Simms’ Richard Hurdis which creates a strange half-vegetal, half-liquid wilderness: the unfathomable marsh.

37In fact, only when the South turns its back on the pastoral Eden does it discover its own originality. The picturesque then merges with a sense of danger – an ambivalence that marks The Yemassee (1835) whose bucolic setting is tainted with horror. In many of Simms’ works, the sunny fairyland gives way to a nightmarish land of miasma, set up against a backdrop of melancholy reinforced by gloomy walls of rank vegetation, as the literary South indulges in the display of jungles that contrast with the open spaces celebrated by the Westerns.

  • 48 Howard Kerr, John W. Crowley and Charles L. Crow (eds.), The Haunted Dusk: American supernatural fi (...)

38These contrasts help us understand why the swamp become an early epitome of the South, an archetype of malaise and malaria recurrent in Southern fiction, marked by a strong scent of Gothicism. As we know, marshlands have always symbolized the decomposition of the spirit, its transitional borders between earth and water suggesting a mental collapse or moral stagnation. And similarly to the Frontier, they create fields of unknowabilility and mystery, offering temporal areas of metamorphosis and regression. The swamp and the Frontier can, furthermore, be viewed as edges of the abyss, “psychic frontiers on the edge of territories both enticing and terrifying.”48

39This primitive locus of terror and horror where travelers can be swallowed up in no time, is common, for instance, in John Pendleton Kennedy’s novels. But archetypes are ambivalent; in Simms’ “Grayling,” the bog is at once a place of horror and of revelation. While it defies invasion, it remains accessible to the disclosure of truth:

They found themselves on the edge of a very dense forest of pines and scrubby oaks, a portion of which was swallowed up in a deep bay – so called in the dialect of the country – a swamp-bottom, the growth of which consisted of mingled cypresses and bay-trees, with tupola, gum, and dense thickets of low stunted shrubbery, cane grass, and dwarf willows, which filled up every interval between the trees, and to the eye most effectually barred out every human intruder. (Ch. II)

  • 49 See William Gilmore Simms, “Grayling; or Murder will out,” From The Wigwam And The Cabi (...)

The bay was one of those massed forests, whose wall of thorns, vines, and close tenacious shrubs, seemed to defy invasion (Ch. V).49

40In Simms’ The Partisan (1835), the swamp is presented both as a treacherous place and a shelter for the insurgents, since General Francis Marion (1732-1795), one of the Southern heroes of the American Revolution from South Carolina – also known as the “Swamp Fox” – used it as a hiding place. As underlined by the following passage from The Partisan, the muddy marshes and tangled forests of the South facilitated Marion’s use of guerrilla tactics against the British.

  • 50 W. G. Simms, The Partisan, New York, AMS Press, 1968, vol. 1, 172-173.

Let us […] penetrate the gloomy swamp and dense woodland recess which sheltered the little army of the lurking partisan. […] Mysterious shadows paced the woods amid kindred shadows; and, like so many ghosts trooping forth from unhallowed graves, the men of Marion sallied out in the hour of intensest gloom, for the terror of that many-armed tyrant who was overshadowing the land with his legions (Ch. XLIII, “Swamp strategics”).50

41Marginal in Westerns, the swamp is foregrounded by a number of movies on the American South. Since the 1910s, several films and later TV-series revisit Francis Marion’s fight and hiding places in his native South Carolina swamp lands, extending them sometimes into the setting of other prominent military leaders of the American Revolution. Transformed into an ambiguous “trademark” of the Old South, the swamp became both an asylum for runaways and a slough of despondency, as for instance, in Simms’ The Forayers (1855) and Kennedy’s Swallow Barn (1832).

  • 51 The expression was later associated with the cowboys of Georgia and Florida, many of th (...)
  • 52 Films considered as “Florida Westerns” include Drums of Destiny (Ray Taylor, 1937); Distant Drums ( (...)

42Florida – and its largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, the Everglades National Park – protects an unparalleled landscape filled with strange flora and fauna. Florida is also known to have a literary tradition that started in the 19th century with characters called “Cracker Westerns,” Florida “cowhunters” or “cracker cowboys” of the 19th and early 20th centuries.51 Interestingly, the state known for its marshy landscapes has provided a subgenre to the Western called “Florida Westerns” in reference to a fairly limited number of films set in the 19th century, particularly around the time of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).52 Most of these films – which tend to use the Everglades as a backdrop – were produced during the 1950s, and many of them include a fictional portrayal of the real-life Seminole leader, Osceola. One of the earliest Florida Westerns, Raoul Wash’s 1951 Distant Drums changed Osceola’s name into Oscala, and depicted him as a malevolent savage, driven with blood lust who fed living prisoners to alligators. Distant Drums starred Gary Cooper in the role of an Army captain who destroys a fort held by the Seminoles, before retreating into the dangerous Everglades while being pursued. Budd Boetticher’s Seminole (1953) is a story of a fragile peace between settlers and native Seminole Indians threatened by a harsh fort commander who wants to wipe out the Natives. At the end, the company is defeated by the treacherous wilderness, the bog reflecting the sinking of the officer’s ambition.

43Another 1950s Florida Western, Wind Across the Everglades (Nicholas Ray, 1958) relies on some of the explicit codes of the Western genre. It depicts the classic arrival of a stranger into a town, and revolves around a frontier of a different kind as American (and immigrant) society is moving South rather than West. 19th century Miami recalls the Frontier towns of typical Western movies, a half-built place on the edge of the wilderness and, similarly to more classic Westerns, Wind Across the Everglades foregrounds the dichotomy between civilization and the still savage Frontier nature. Cottonmouth (Burl Yves) and his crew bear a vague resemblance to the Natives in many movies, characterized by an affinity with nature and the land which is noticeably lacking in the portrayal of the white settlers.

44Despite the fact that these films are not strictly speaking representative of the Western genre, they prove that the land has always deeply affected the inspiration of American movie directors.

Conclusion

45The literary origins of the Western show that the conventions of the genre were, in many a sense, defined already in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the 19th century, the genre was gradually shaped by Southern writers and by novels set in the South. It is, however, also to be underlined that the strength of Western expansion, the impetus of Manifest Destiny, and the gradual effect of the “synthesization” of the codes and places account for the prevalence of the “Western” as a catch-all designation for a bewildering array of diverse elements. The genre actually encompasses a variety of landscapes which transcend geographical or regional boundaries. And as far as themes are concerned, the Western has gone through what could be viewed as a re-appropriation of Southern specificities, especially regarding the obsession with violence, and even blood and gore, as shown by Spaghetti and post-Spaghetti Westerns.

  • 53 Scott Simmon, The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre’s Firs (...)

46Even Major Dundee (Sam Peckinpah, 1965), a film that deals with the aftermath of the Civil War have been labeled “Westerns,” suggesting that the defeat of the South has also been instrumental in affecting the ideology of the genre. As Scott Simmon notes: “In Westerns, the visionary men who represent the West, look forward and bring the nation together, whereas those who cling to an identification with the South look back and divide it – and almost inevitably die.”53 This is why the Southerner Hatfield (John Carradine) in Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939) is to be killed during the journey, just like Captain Tyreen in Major Dundee. The same conflict appears in The Texans (James P. Hogan, 1938), Dark Command (Raoul Walsh, 1940) and Rio Conchos (1964) with the final defeat of the megalomaniacal ex-Confederate colonel.

  • 54 Philip French, Westerns: Aspects of a Movie Genre, New York: Viking Press, 1974, 24.

47To return to the formula of Quentin Tarantino, we still do not know if Django Unchained is a “Western proper” or a “Southern.” What we do know is that the emphasis of Tarantino’s film remains on playfulness. The evolution of the genre shows that the model is, indeed, based on a flexible, playful structure, a thematically fertile and ambiguous world of historical material shot through with archetypal elements which are themselves in flux. As Philip French claims: “The Western is a great grab-bag, a hungry cuckoo of a genre, a voracious bastard of a form, open equally to visionaries and opportunists, ready to seize anything that’s in the air from juvenile delinquency to ecology”54. In the light of the elements exposed within this article, one might add that many ingredients of the Southern mythology have also been swallowed up by the irresistible dynamics of Westerns.

  • 55 Bernard Terramorsi, Le Mauvais rêve américain : Les origines du Fantastique (...)

48As we have seen, the interplay between the setting, the “spirit of the place,” and the impenetrable recesses of Frontier spaces often reveals the abysses of the human mind. In the words of Bernard Terramorsi, nature proves unfathomable to the characters of the “space-between”55 who teeter between two worlds: between wakefulness and sleep, depravation and innocence, sanity and madness, civilization and the wilderness, swamps and terra firma.

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Bibliographie

Literary Works Cited

BIRD Robert Montgomery, Nick of the Woods; or, The Jibbenainosay. A Tale of Kentucky, Philadelphia, Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837

BRACKENRIDGE Hugh Henry, Modern Chivalry: Containing the Adventures of Captain John Farrago and Teague O’Regan, His servant, 4 vol., 1792-1819.

BROWN Charles Brockden, Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a sleep-walker, Philadelphia: H. Maxwell, 1799.

CREVECOEUR J. Hector St. Jean de, Letters from an American Farmer, London, 1782. <https://archive.org/stream/lettersfromaname030634mbp/lettersfromaname030634mbp_djvu.txt>

HALL James, “The Indian Hater” [1829], in Legends of the West, Philadelphia, Harrison Hall, 1832.

LAWRENCE D. H., “Fenimore Cooper’s White Novels,” Studies in Classic American Literature. Online at: <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/lawrence/dhlch04.htm>.

KENNEDY John Pendleton, Horse-Shoe Robinson: A Tale of Tory Ascendancy [1835], New York: American Book Company, 1937.

POE Edgar Allan, “William Gilmore Simms,” The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. III, New York: J. S. Redfield, 1850, 275.

ROWLANDSON Mary, The Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1682. <https://archive.org/details/narrativecapt00rowlrich>

SIMMS William Gilmore, Guy Rivers (New York: Harper & Bros., 1834) ; Richard Hurdis ; or, The Avenger of Blood, Philadelphia, Carey & Hart, 1838; “Grayling; or, Murder Will Out” (in The Wigwam and the Cabin, New York, Wiley & Putnam, 1845; The Partisan, New York: AMS Press, 1968, 2 vol.

WEBBER Charles Wilkins, “Jack Long; or, The Shot in the Eye,” Tales of the Southern Border. Philadelphia, Lippincott, Grambo, 1853

Bibliography

CARMIGNANI Paul, “L’Esprit des lieux,” in André Muraire (ed.), Espaces et paysages des États-Unis, Revue Cycnos, vol. 15, n° 1, Université de Nice-Sophia-Antipolis, 1998.

CAWELTI John, The Six-gun Mystique Sequel, Bowling Green OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999.

CHERPITEL Simón, “Defining the Western,” <https://cinemacom.com/westerns>, accessed on July 21, 2017 [en erreur juillet 2018].

DE LA BRETEQUE François, “Le Paysage dans le Western,” in G. Camy (ed.), Western, que reste-t-il de nos amours ?, Collection CinémAction n° 86, Condé sur Noireau: Corlet-Télérama, 1998, 59-60.

FIEDLER Leslie, Le Retour du peau-rouge, Paris: Le Seuil, 1971.

FRANK Frederick S., Through the Pale Door: A Guide to and through the American Gothic, New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

FRENCH Philip, Westerns: Aspects of a Movie Genre, New York: Viking Press, 1974.

GUILLAUD Lauric (ed.), La Terreur et le sacré/La nuit gothique américaine, Paris: Michel Houdiard Editeur, 2003. Réédition 2007.

GUILLAUD Lauric, “Ghosts on the Frontier,” in Max Duperray (ed.), Gothic N.E.W.S., Paris: Michel Houdiard, 2009, vol. 1, 221-236.

GUNN Giles (ed.), Early American Writing, New York: Penguin Classics, 1994.

Hiscock John, “Quentin Tarantino: I’m proud of my flop (interview),,” The Telegraph 27 April, 2007. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/starsandstories/3664742/Quentin-Tarantino-Im-proud-of-my-flop.html>, accessed on June 21, 2018.

HOPPENSTAND Gary, “Justified Bloodshed: R. M. Bird’s Nick of the Wood and the Origins of the Vigilante Hero in American Literature and Culture,” Journal of American Culture, vol. 15, Issue 2, June 1992, 51.

KERR Howard, John W. Crowley and Charles L. Crow (eds.), The Haunted Dusk: American supernatural fiction, 1820-1920, Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1983

LEUTRAT Jean-Louis, Le Western, archéologie d’un genre, Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1987.

LEUTRAT Jean-Louis, LIANDRAT-GUIGUES, Suzanne, Les cartes de l’Ouest, Paris, A. Colin, 1997.

MAROVITZ Sanford E., “Poe’s Reception of C. W. Webber’s Gothic Western,” Poe Studies, vol. IV, n° 1, June 1971, 11.

MCGRATH Charles, “Quentin’s World,” The New York Times, December 23, 2012.

MITCHELL Lee Clark, “Why, Monument Valley?,” The Western, H. B. Pettey ed. Paradoxa, n° 19, Vashon Island, 2004, 116-146.

PETTEY H. B. (ed.), The Western, Vashon Island: Paradoxa, 2004.

QUAY Sarah E., Westward expansion, Westport, London: Greenwood Press, 2002.

ROSENBERG Alyssa, “Django Unchained is a Western. Not a Southern,” Thinkprogress, June 7, 2012. https://thinkprogress.org/django-unchained-is-a-western-not-a-southern-5c4d6800350d, accessed on July 21, 2017.

ROUSSEAU-DUJARDIN, Jacqueline, TERRAMORSI Bernard, Le Mauvais rêve américain : les origines du Fantastique et le Fantastique des origines aux Etats-Unis, Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994.

SIMMON Scott, The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre’s First Half-Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

SMITH Henry Nash, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1950.

TERRAMORSI Bernard, Le Mauvais rêve américain : Les origines du Fantastique et le Fantastique des origines aux Etats-Unis, Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994.

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Notes

1 D. H. Lawrence, “Fenimore Cooper’s White Novels,” Studies in Classic American Literature. Online at: <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/lawrence/dhlch04.htm>, accessed on July 1, 2018.

2 A low-budget subgenre of Western films made by a European, especially an Italian film company. Action-oriented, violent yet innovative Spaghetti Westerns (initially a depreciative term) were particularly popular in the 1960s and early 1970s. Glorifying, mourning and parodying the Western genre, they were often filmed in Spain, and directed by an Italian director (such a Sergio Leone) with a cast of Italian, Spanish, German and American actors, sometimes a fading or a rising Hollywood star.

3 Charles McGrath, “Quentin’s World,” The New York Times, December 23, 2012.

4 “I’d like to do a Western. But rather than set it in Texas, have it in slavery times. With that subject that everybody is afraid to deal with. Let’s shine that light on ourselves. You could do a ponderous history lesson of slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. Or, you could make a movie that would be exciting. Do it as an adventure. A spaghetti Western that takes place during that time. And I would call it “A Southern.” Quentin Tarantino: I’m proud of my flop,” The Telegraph interview by John Hiscock, 27 April, 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/starsandstories/3664742/Quentin-Tarantino-Im-proud-of-my-flop.html, accessed on July 21, 2017.

5 Alyssa Rosenberg, “Django Unchained is a Western. Not a Southern,” Thinkprogress, June 7, 2012. https://thinkprogress.org/django-unchained-is-a-western-not-a-southern-5c4d6800350d, accessed on July 21, 2017.

6 Jean-Louis Leutrat, Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues, Les Cartes de l’Ouest, Paris: A. Colin, 1997, 105.

7 Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1950, 45.

8 Lawrence Clark Powell quoted in Jean-Louis Leutrat, Western, archéologie d’un genre, Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1987, 144.

9 Lee Clark Mitchell, “Why, Monument Valley?,” in H. B. Pettey (ed.), The Western, Vashon Island: Paradoxa, 2004, 117.

10 Let us note that Monument Valley, formally a Navajo Reservation since 1934, is not a valley in the conventional sense of the word, but a vast, awe-inspiring plain, interrupted by impressive sandstone mesas and spires many of which rise hundreds of feet into the air. Called “Valley of the Rocks” by the Navajos, this dramatic landscape has been the setting of hundreds of movies since George B. Seitz’s The Vanishing American (1925) making it, in a sense, the epicenter of the American West on screen.

11 Lee Clark Mitchell, op. cit., 118.

12 Leslie Fiedler, Le Retour du peau-rouge, Paris: Le Seuil, 1971, 16.

13 John Cawelti, The Six-gun Mystique Sequel, Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999, 9.

14 Simón Cherpitel, “Defining the Western,” <https://cinemacom.com/westerns>, accessed on July 21, 2017 [en erreur juillet 2018].

15 Sarah E. Quay, Westward expansion, Westport, London: Greenwood Press, 2002, 153.

16 Henry Nash Smith, op. cit., 145.

17 Quoted in “Introduction,” Giles Gunn (ed.), Early American Writing, New York: Penguin Classics, 1994, xxx.

18 Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a sleep-walker, Philadelphia: H. Maxwell, 1799.

19 Letters From An American Farmer by J. Hector St. John De Crèvecoeur, Letter IV, <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/CREV/letter04.html>, accessed on July 21, 2017.

20 Ibidem.

21 Ibid.

22 Crèvecoeur, ibid., Letter IX, <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/CREV/letter09.html>, accessed on July 21, 2017.

23 Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Modern Chivalry, Part I, Book 3, Chapter XVI, <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper2/chivalry/part2/Book3/b3ch16.htm>, accessed on July 21, 2017.

24 See Lauric Guillaud, La terreur et le sacré/La nuit gothique américaine , Paris: Michel Houdiard Editeur, 2003 [Republished in 2007].

25 See Lauric Guillaud, “Ghosts on the Frontier,” in Max Duperray (ed.), Gothic N.E.W.S., Paris: Michel Houdiard, vol. 1, 221-236.

26 Robert Montgomery Bird, Nick of the Woods or the jibbenainosay, Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837, 51.

27 Frederick S. Frank, Through the Pale Door: A Guide to and Through the American Gothic, New York: Greenwood Press, 1990, 28.

28 Gary Hoppenstand, “Justified Bloodshed: R. M. Bird’s Nick of the Wood and the Origins of the Vigilante Hero in American Literature and Culture,” Journal of American Culture, vol. 15, Issue 2, June 1992, 51.

29 John Pendleton Kennedy, Horse-Shoe Robinson: A Tale of Tory Ascendancy, New York: American Book Company, 1937.

30 Guy Rivers (1834), Richard Hurdis (1838) and its sequel, Border Beagles (1840); Beauchampe; or, The Kentucky Tragedy (1842) and its expansion, Charlemont; or, The Pride of the Village (1842). The other books in Simm’s Revolutionary trilogy are entitled Mellichampe, a Legend of the Santee (1836) and Katharine Walton; or, The Rebel of Dorchester (1851).

31 William Gilmore Simms, Richard Hurdis, Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1838, 66. (My emphasis)

32 William Gilmore Simms, “Grayling,” Tales of the South, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996, 80-109. Translated by Lauric Guillaud in Contes fantastiques, Paris: Michel Houdiard Editeur, 2004.

33 Edgar Allan Poe, “William Gilmore Simms,” The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. III, New York: J. S. Redfield, 1850, 275.

34 See Sanford E. Marovitz’s article : “Poe’s Reception of C. W. Webber’s Gothic Western,” Poe Studies, vol. IV, n° 1, June 1971, 11.

35 A Misunderstood Boy (D. W. Griffith, 1913), Broncho Billy and the Vigilante (Gilbert M. Anderson, 1915), The Vigilantes (Henry Kabierske,1918), The Vigilantes Are Coming (Ray Taylor, Mack V. Wright, 1936), The Purple Vigilantes (Georges Sherman, 1938), Border Vigilantes (Derwin Abrahams, 1941), The Lone Star Vigilantes (Wallace Fox, 1942), The Oxbow Incident (William A. Wellman, 1943), The Vigilantes Ride (William Berke, 1943), Vigilantes of Dodge City (Wallace Grissell, 1944), Cornered (Edward Dmytryk, 1945), Vigilantes of Boomtown (R.G. Springsteen, 1947), The Vigilantes Return (Ray Taylor, 1947), The Vigilante (Wallace Fox, 1947), Desert Vigilante (Fred F. Sears,1949), Vigilante Hideout (Fred C. Brannon, 1950), etc.

36 Henry Nash Smith, op. cit., 72.

37 Sanford E. Marovitz, “Poe’s Reception of C. W. Webber’s Gothic Western,” op. cit., 11.

38 Charles Wilkins Webber, “Jack Long, or, The Shot in the Eye,” Tales of the Southern Border, Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1853, 36-37.

39 Ibidem, 28.

40 Ibid., 35.

41 Ibidem., 36.

42 Scott Simmon, The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre’s First Half-Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, 147.

43 Jean-Louis Leutrat, op. cit., 9.

44 François de la Bretèque, “Le Paysage dans le Western,” in G. Camy (ed.), Western, que reste-t-il de nos amours?, Collection CinémAction n° 86, Condé-sur-Noireau: Corlet-Télérama, 1998, 59-60. For instance, Rio Conchos (Gordon Douglas, 1964) was filmed in Moab (Utah), although the Conchos River is in Mexico. Moreover, “[i]n the 60s and 70s Europe produced over 600 westerns. This boom of low budget film production began after the unexpected financial success of the European western Winnetou, based on German author Karl May’s popular books. Because many of these films were financed by Italian companies, they were nicknamed “Spaghetti Westerns.” Most, however, were actually filmed in the desert near Almería, in the south of Spain, because of its resemblance to the classic western movie landscape. The two geographies, southwestern U.S. and southern Spain, were additionally linked by letting many of the stories take place near the Mexican border, thus bringing an image of Spanish America back to Spain.” <https://robbinsbecher.com/Almeria>, accessed on July 21, 2017.

45 Literally “a historical dead angle.”

46 Quoted by François de la Bretèque, op. cit., 60.

47 See Paul Carmignani, “L’Esprit des lieux,” in André Muraire (dir.) Espaces et paysages des États-Unis, Revue Cycnos, vol. 15, n°1, Université de Nice-Sophia-Antipolis, 1998.

48 Howard Kerr, John W. Crowley and Charles L. Crow (eds.), The Haunted Dusk: American supernatural fiction, 1820-1920, Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1983, 1-2.

49 See William Gilmore Simms, “Grayling; or Murder will out,” From The Wigwam And The Cabin, <http://truthbasedlogic.com/murder.htm>, accessed on July 21, 2017.

50 W. G. Simms, The Partisan, New York, AMS Press, 1968, vol. 1, 172-173.

51 The expression was later associated with the cowboys of Georgia and Florida, many of them descendants of those early frontiersmen (Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia). In 1895, Frederick Remington and Owen Wister travelled to Florida to write a story on Florida’s cowboys for Harper’s Weekly.

52 Films considered as “Florida Westerns” include Drums of Destiny (Ray Taylor, 1937); Distant Drums (Raoul Walsh, 1951); The Barefoot Mailman (Earl McEvoy, 1951); Shark River (John Rawlins, 1953); Seminole (Budd Boetticher, 1953); Yellowneck (R. John Hugh, 1955), a B-grade film set during the Civil War; Naked in the Sun (R. John Hugh, 1957), one of the few films to show Native Americans as slaves of white Americans; Wind Across the Everglades (Nicholas Ray, 1961); Osceola (Konrad Petzold, 1971), an obscure East German-Cuban co-production, and Joe Panther (Paul Krasny, 1976).

53 Scott Simmon, The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre’s First Half-Century, op. cit., 147.

54 Philip French, Westerns: Aspects of a Movie Genre, New York: Viking Press, 1974, 24.

55 Bernard Terramorsi, Le Mauvais rêve américain : Les origines du Fantastique et le Fantastique des origines aux Etats-Unis, Paris : L’Harmattan, 1994, 12

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Lauric Guillaud, « The Literary Roots of Southern Westerns », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XVI-n°1 | 2018, mis en ligne le 11 juillet 2018, consulté le 18 novembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/9256 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.9256

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Auteur

Lauric Guillaud

Lauric Guillaud est professeur émérite de littérature et de civilisation américaines à l'université d'Angers. Ancien directeur du CERLI, il a publié nombre d'articles sur l'imaginaire anglo-saxon : les mondes perdus, le roman de la Frontière, les mythes américains, le gothique, le roman d'aventures, etc. Ses principales publications incluent La Terreur et le sacré, Jules Verne face au rêve américain, King Kong, ou la revanche des mondes perdus, Nouveau Monde, autopsie d'un mythe (Ed. Michel Houdiard).

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