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Black MarketThe Slave's Value in National Culture after 1865$
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Aaron Carico

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469655581

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655581.001.0001

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Cowboys and Slaves

Cowboys and Slaves

Chapter:
(p.105) Chapter Three Cowboys and Slaves
Source:
Black Market
Author(s):

Aaron Carico

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655581.003.0004

This chapter pans westward to investigate a single novel, Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902), regarded as the beginning of the Western, an origin story for that national mythology. The Virginian and the Western would seem to have nothing to do with slavery, but as this chapter reveals, slavery supplies the scaffolding for that most American of heroes, the cowboy. This chapter explores the centrality of anti-Blackness in the origins of the Western, engaging with genre theory and Sigmund Freud’s work on jokes. It explains the Western’s appearance against a backdrop of incorporation, finance capitalism, and emerging economic theories of marginalism. Tracing the connections between the frontier economies of the South and the West, and between the slave overseer and the cowboy, it reveals the Western as originating from a fantasy of Black genocide and white supremacy.

Keywords:   Owen Wister, The Virginian, Western, Anti-Blackness, Genre theory, Sigmund Freud, Marginalism, Finance capitalism, Frontier economy, White supremacy

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