Beyond the "Horse Opera": The Development of a Film Genre, 1939 - 1959

Robert G. Goulet

Tuesdays, October 3 - November 14 10:00 a.m. - noon 7 sessions
King's Chapel Parish House, 64 Beacon Street

This study of westerns will focus not on the factual accuracy of the texts depicting earlier periods but on their reflection of the political and social concerns of mid-twentieth century America. The dramatizations of Main Street showdowns, lynching parties, and battles with "Injuns" were employed to convey partisan conflicts and related instances of social injustice, while the representations of families and communities underscored – and sometimes undermined – the narrow definitions of sexual relationships and gender roles dictated by the Motion Picture Production Code.   

These "generic" texts also represented advances in film arts and crafts that made them comparable to other films of the era. They shared characteristics of other dramatic types (domestic melodrama, film noir, even romantic comedy), and their creators included American and European émigré filmmakers whose expertise had already been recognized in one way or another.  

Each session will be devoted to the discussion of excerpts from titles indicated in a detailed course outline. The conversations will likely move beyond interpretation to analysis and evaluation, and, in regard to the former, the course leader’s Glossary of Film Terms will serve as a supplementary text. Before the first meeting, the group will receive a document listing titles, release dates, and directors of films that were analyzed before the final draft of the course syllabus. 

Teaching Style: Seminar     Weekly Preparation: None


    Robert G. Goulet

    Robert G. Goulet is professor emeritus of English at Stonehill College. He received an Ed.B. in English and French at Rhode Island College and an M.A. and PhD in English literature at Brown University. He has presented conference papers on the cinematic representation of schooling, gender politics, and sexual orientation. At Stonehill, he developed, among others, courses in film history, American film genres, European cinema, Asian cinema, and television drama.