From Neil Campbell:
Theorising the postwestern
I’m interested in David’s comments on the ‘post-West’ and felt moved to include a brief extract from my work-in-progress on Post-Westerns. It begins (at least in this section) to comment on and define how the term might be applied.
EXTRACT: “The problem of the meaning of the prefix ‘post’ is critical to this discussion of what I am calling ‘post-Western’ cinema for contained within the debates surrounding it much is revealed about the relationships of the Western to its ‘past’ , ‘present’ and ‘future’. Commenting on the use of ‘post’ in post-colonialism, Stuart Hall argues for it as a continuum, as ‘not only “after” but “going beyond” the colonial, as post-modernism is both “going beyond” and coming “after” modernism, and post-structuralism both follows chronologically and achieves its theoretical gains “on the back of” structuralism’ (Hall 1996:253). A similar logic can be usefully employed to discuss the relations and tensions between the Western and its ‘post’ forms as both ‘going beyond and after’ its earlier ‘classic’ structures and themes. To borrow the phrasing Hall uses, ‘It is because the relations which characterised the “colonial” [read classic Western] are no longer in the same place and relative position, that we are able not simply to oppose them but to critique, to deconstruct and try to “go beyond” them’ (ibid.:254). The ‘post’ never just means the ‘past’ as in the term ‘post-Western’, but rather ‘a process of disengagement’ from the system it is in tension with, in the full knowledge that it is ‘probably inescapable’ from that system as well (ibid.:246). Thus Westerns and post-Westerns ‘never operated in a purely binary way’ but always interact, overlap and inter-relate, as argued earlier, in complex dialogical ways.” This may help in moving closer to how the post-Western functions – certainly in texts like ‘The Road’ (maybe) or, in my case, in films like ‘Down in the Valley’ or I’d argue ‘No Country for Old Men’ (with its irony and deep yearning and loss).
Anyway enough … the post-western ideas are in my ‘Journal of the West’ article on Down in the Valley (Post-Western Cinema: David Jacobson’s Down in the Valley; Winter 2008) and forthcoming elsewhere … the book is in process …
[Editor’s Note: I moved this from the comment section into a post for easier access and reading]