The Cowboy

The Cowboy : Representations of Labor in an American Work Culture

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The Cowboy uses literary, historical, folkloric, and pop cultural sources to document the cowboy's role in the culture of the American West. In doing so, Allmendinger makes use of early oral poems recited by cowboys in the course of their work, and later poems, histories, and autobiographies written by cowboys - most of which have never before been studied by more

Product details

  • Hardback | 212 pages
  • 159 x 235.2 x 21.6mm | 537.46g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • halftones, line drawings
  • 019507243X
  • 9780195072433

Back cover copy

What are the connections between cattle branding and Christian salvation, between livestock castration and square dancing, between cattle rustling and the making of spurs and horsehair bridles in prison, between children's coloring books and cowboy poetry as it is practiced today? The Cowboy uses literary, historical, folkloric, and pop and cultural sources to document ways in which cowboys address religion, gender, economics, and literature. Arguing that cowboys are defined by the work they do, Allmendinger sets out in each chapter to investigate one form of labor (such as branding, castration, or rustling) in the cowboy's "work culture." He looks at early oral poems recited around campfires, on trail drives, at roundups, and at home in ranch bunkhouses, and at later poems, histories, and autobiographies written by cowboys about their work - most of which have never before received scholarly attention. Allmendinger shows how these texts address larger concerns than the work at hand - including art, morality, spirituality, and male sexuality. In addition to spotlighting little-known texts, art, and archival sources, The Cowboy examines the works of Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, Louis L'Amour, Larry McMurtry, and others. Unique among studies of the American cowboy, Allmendinger's study looks at what cowboys thought of themselves, and the ways in which they represented those thoughts in their own prose, poetry, and artifacts. Richly illustrated with photographs of cowboys at work and at play, many previously unpublished, The Cowboy will interest scholars of American literature and history, and American Studies, as well as those interested in Western history and culture, folklore, and gender more

Review quote

In this path-breaking work, Allmendinger looks past the colorful cowboy of pulp fiction and film to investigate the equally colorful world that actual cowboys constructed for themselves. By assessing the workaday world of the cowboy with a mixture of exhaustive scholarly knowledge and intellectual brio, he reveals a set of sustaining myths to the stories, songs, and poems that cowboys themselves have written-myths by which they instilled their otherwise menial work with transcendent meaning and urgency. Branding read as skin grammar; livestock castration as a masculinizing activity; square dancing as intense moral drama; the lonesome cowboy as labor's ideal: these and other provocative insights emerge from this wonderfully innovative study-a study that not only gives us the cowboy as a serious cultural and laboring figure, but provides an interdisciplinary model in its combination of folklore, history, popular culture, and literary analysis. * Lee Mitchell, Princeton University *show more