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The western is arguably the most iconic and influential genre in American cinema. The solitude of the lone rider, the loyalty of his horse, and the unspoken code of the West render the genre popular yet lead it to offer a view of America’s history that is sometimes inaccurate. For many, the western embodies America and its values. In recent years, scholars had declared the western genre dead, but a steady resurgence of western themes in literature, film, and television has reestablished the genre as one of the most important.

In The Philosophy of the Western, editors Jennifer L. McMahon and B. Steve Csaki examine philosophical themes in the western genre. Investigating subjects of nature, ethics, identity, gender, environmentalism, and animal rights, the essays draw from a wide range of westerns including the recent popular and critical successes Unforgiven (1992), All the Pretty Horses (2000), 3:10 to Yuma (2007), and No Country for Old Men (2007), as well as literature and television serials such as Deadwood. The Philosophy of the Western reveals the influence of the western on the American psyche, filling a void in the current scholarship of the genre.

Jennifer L. McMahon, associate professor and chair of the English and Languages Department at East Central University, is a contributor to The Philosophy of TV Noir, The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese, and The Simpsons and Philosophy.

B. Steve Csaki was most recently a visiting professor at Centre College, where he taught courses in philosophy, the humanities, and Japanese.

"The writing is accessible to nonspecialists and should be of interest to general readers who enjoy thinking about philosophy, film, or westerns."--Karen D. Hoffman, Hood College

"A delightful collection, one that goes a long way toward bridging the fields of philosophy and film studies. At once erudite and readable, many of its essays offer solid summaries of philosophic concepts and movements. . . .those familiar with the classic westerns will find the book a painless way to pick up some philosophy."--American Studies

"The authors examine the rise and recent resurgence of the iconic genre of American cinema—its popularity, its claims on encapsulating American values, and its historical inaccuracies."--Moving Image Archives

"These essays, and others, connect rewardingly to ongoing discussions of Westerns in a broad context"--Choice Magazine

"The collection is evenly divided between classic and contemporary Westerns, providing a comprehensive overview of the history of the genre" -- Western American Literature

"For Western film fams and American scholars alike, The Philosophy of the Western is both enjoyable and enlightening. It will leave you longing to dust off the covers of your favorite Western films and rewatch them with a deeper sense of significance adn newfound appreciation."--Journal of American Studies Association of Texas

"These essays make compelling cases"--Western Historical Quarterly

"Anyone interested in the mythic grip that Westerns have had and continue to have on the American imaginary will no doubt find something of interest in this collection."--Great Plains Quarterly

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Western films, Popular culture, Philosophy


American Popular Culture

The Philosophy of the Western
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