Cold War Westerns: Social Consciousness Reflected through Film, 1950-1970
Baskin, Kat (Robakiewicz, Katelyn N.)
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The history of consciousness is an interdisciplinary field that combines the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts. This study does just that to examine American social consciousness during the Cold War period. I will first discuss the connection between consciousness and mythology, then American mythology, and finally a note on the method of this study. First, a discussion on the connection between consciousness and mythology will help elucidate the social consciousness reflected in an art form. People interpret their existence as a means of understanding and make sense of the world around them by "transforming experience, perception, and narration into the materials of a myth". Philip Wheelwright, an American literary theorist, calls this, "mythopoeic mode of consciousness", which comprehends the world through a process of thought and perception association, and through a process of reasoning by metaphor. Figurative and poetic statements replace direct statements and logical analysis. Associations and metaphors evolve into figurative and poetic statements that become the codified and iconographic language of mythology. People use this mythology to give meaning to their social existence, uniting them by collective consciousness. Thus, myths reflect social consciousness by dramatizing a codified and iconographic experience. Secondly, a very brief discussion on the development of American mythology will help contextualize this study. A distinctly American mythology developed out of a synthesis of old and new experiences. This mythology admonished the knowledge of the wilderness, the "Indian mind", and simplicity. The most popular form of this myth came through the real life personality, Daniel Boone. The circulation of his story was widespread, despite his personal belief that such productions, "ought to be left till the [subject] was put in the ground". His personality became mythologized by a collective interest and fascination in understanding him.