Richard Etulain

Telling Western Stories: From Buffalo Bill to Larry McMurtry

This presentation deals with the changing images of the American West as seen through novels, histories, films, and other popular media. The speaker shows how early images of the West treated it as a remote, wild, and uncivilized region. By World War II and into the 1960s however, writers and filmmakers were beginning to see the West as much more complex, as a place of racial and ethnic competitions and environmental conflict. Gradually the heroic characters that John Wayne and writer Louis L’Amour depicted gave way to the antiheroic protagonists of actor Clint Eastwood and of writers such as Larry McMurtry. This presentation asks us to think about the ways we have interpreted our West and why these interpretations have so often changed in the past century and more.