Most film critics point to classic conflicts – good versus evil, right versus wrong, civilization versus savagery – as defining themes of the American Western. In this provocative examination of Westerns, in Gunfight at the Eco-Corral Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann argue for a more expansive view that moves beyond traditional conflicts to encompass environmental themes and struggles.
Beginning with an analysis of two iconic Westerns, Shane and The Searchers, Murray and Heumann identify the environmental dichotomies – previously overlooked by critics – that are broached in both films, and they clarify the history that lies behind the environmental debates in these films and many others. The conflicts these movies address grow out of differing views of progress, frequently in relation to technology.
The authors of Gunfight at the Eco-Corral show that such binary oppositions tend to blur when examined closely, demonstrating that environmental issues are often more complex than we realize.
Robin L. Murray is a professor of English at Eastern Illinois University. Joseph K. Heumann is a professor emeritus at Eastern Illinois University. They are the coauthors of Ecology and Popular Film: Cinema on the Edge, That's All Folks?: Ecocritical Readings of American Animated Features and the forthcoming Film and Everyday Disasters