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Links between western films, classical world is topic of talk

This event has been postponed.
MONMOUTH, Ill. – When the “Wild West” is mentioned, we typically think of it as a region in the western half of the United States. But a guest lecturer at Monmouth College will show how the phrase also refers to the western half of the world, and how films portraying the region are linked to the classical world.

Kirsten Day, chair of the classics department at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., will deliver a talk titled “West of Them: Classical Allusions and identity Politics in Western Film” at 7:30 p.m. March 19 in the Pattee Auditorium of the Center for Science and Business. Sponsored by the Monmouth College Department of Classics, the talk is free and open to the public.

“The persistent association of the United States’ immediate mythic-historical roots – which lie in narratives of the ‘Wild West’ – with the Greco-Roman world suggests an unconscious attempt to reinforce the position of the classical past as a direct cultural ancestor,” said Day, whose monograph on classical epic and Western film, titled Cowboy Classics, was published in 2016.

Day said the division of the world into “West” and “East” is consistent with the “us vs. them” mentality.

“That mentality is crucial to the foundational narratives of a nation eager to justify the extermination of native peoples and the appropriation of their lands as a triumph of civilization over savagery divinely sanctioned by the tenets of Manifest Destiny,” she said.

In addition to several articles on classical receptions in edited volumes and in scholarly journals, Day has also edited special issues of Arethusa and Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy dedicated to classics and popular culture.