Master of Arts (M.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.
Brook J. Sadler, Ph.D.
William Cummings, Ph.D.
1970s American Culture, Peter Fonda, Robert Altman, Masculinity, Corporatization
The Western has been an important and iconic part of American culture since the opening of the frontier. However, very few scholars have looked closely at the way the genre constructs the past through public and private spaces like frontier towns and settlements.
The 1971 films, The Hired Hand and McCabe & Mrs. Miller are two texts that revitalized, and in the process revised, the Western genre in the early 1970s. My paper examines the ways in which conflicts between public and private spaces in the films reflect the social and cultural conflicts in America at the time. Both films feature lead male characters that strive to, but ultimately fail to resurrect an older idea of public space as they attempt to reclaim their place in it. The men attempt to navigate changing ideas of public space by retreating in to domestic or feminine space and resisting the corporatization of public space.
This paper uses the works of Nancy Fraser and Richard Sennett to explore the different approaches to the nature of public space in post World War II America and sheds new light on the ways in which men adapted or, in some cases, refused to adapt to the changing social conditions of the second half of the 20th century.
Scholar Commons Citation
Ross, Eric Ward, "Constructing the West: The Hired Hand and McCabe & Mrs. Miller and the Challenge of Public Space" (2016). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.