Number 50 (2007)

The Outlaw and the American Cultural Landscape

Guest Editor: Keagan LeJeune


Political Outlaws: Beat Cowboys

This paper examines the specific cultural landscape of the liminal locale of bohemia during the specific historical moment of the Beat Generation (1950 -1965) to examine how the elements of the outlaw figure were transformed by the Beat writers to fend off the Eisenhower-era containment culture.

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“I Fought the Law and the Law Won”

This essay considers the political personas of figures historicized by their own anti-governmental and decidedly excrescent performances of civic and political engagement. Tracing a winding path of Confederate spies’ ideological formation and performance of Southern citizenship during the period of American disunion and the Civil War, the paper argues that these individuals self-consciously framed and justified their performances of outlaw citizenship by relying heavily on both rhetorical and aesthetic performances of the mythologized civic republicanism long-associated in popular consciousness with the founding of the American republic.

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“Wanted Dead or Alive”: The Female Outlaw and Callie Khouri’s Thelma and Louise

This essay analyzes Callie Khouri’s Thelma and Louise, drawing comparisons to the outlaw Belle Starr who had violated acceptable codes of behavior for late nineteenth-century American women.  Employing the analysis of the “Bandit Queen” persona, Paige discusses which components of the outlaw figure are manipulated and which remain intact as the outlaw is made feminine and rejects not only conventional law but also the patriarchal conventions of womanhood, conventions established in the world  these outlaws inhabit.

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Bonnie and Clyde’s “Other Side”: The Good-Bad Outlaws of Larry Buchanan

Arthur Penn’s 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde created a cultural sensation and still appears on critics’ lists of the best and most influential films ever made. Remembered for having sealed the folk-heroic myth of 1930s bandits Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Penn’s film actually did far less to humanize and romanticize the outlaws than did The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde, an allegedly anti-Bonnie and Clyde docudrama shot by Larry Buchanan in 1968.

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Against All Odds — “Sam Hall” and “The Man in Black”: From British Social Disparagement to American Defiant Individualism

This article traces the development of the “Sam Hall” topos from its 18th or 17th century British origins to William Blake, to the Dubliners’ version of a Celtic traditional, to Hayes’ Harvard version, and finally to Johnny Cash. As an expression of socio-cultural criticism, the outlaw Sam Hall has been formed into a prototype of American defiant individualism “against all odds.”

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Brujeria and the U.S.-Mexico Border Outlaw

This paper investigates the death metal band Brujeria, their use of both traditional and contemporary outlaw imagery, and their connection to the narcocorrido, in order to examine the tenacity of the outlaw paradigm as an expression of resistance by subordinate groups in situations of social inequality. It deals with the contemporary figure of the outlaw in connection to the U.S.-Mexico border region, as influenced by outlaw traditions in the area, and as an expression of specific contemporary historical circumstances of that region, including Mexican economic crisis, globalization, and border conflicts surrounding immigration, drug trafficking, and labor.

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From Subterranean to Suburban: The Landscapes of Gay Outlaw Writing

The landscapes of sexually dissident American writing have long been conceived as entirely urban. The work of John Rechy, for instance, is always situated in the nocturnal, subterranean shadows of urban public space. The seclusion of these so-called “outlaw territories,” combined with their propinquity to mainstream society, creates an environment of near-total sexual freedom, but also a site which supposedly has the potential to disturb the city’s conventional population. However, the altogether animalistic territoriality of Rechy’s outlaw landscapes suggests instead the naturalness and timelessness of outlawry and the inevitability of conflict, rather than the possibility of change. Dennis Cooper has similarly been celebrated as an “outlaw writer”, yet much of his work is located in what amounts to the most conventional American landscape conceivable: suburbia.

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Outlaw Artists and the Urban Landscape: Does One Have to be Bad to Be Good?

There are several seemingly obvious connections between outlaws and artists: both have been mythologized through books, newspaper accounts, tabloid chronicles, talk show interviews, and movies depicting the positive and negative outcomes of their accomplishments; artists and outlaws alike tend to live according to their own rules; and outlaws, as well as some artists, tend to burn out early. These similarities are deeply rooted in public perception, self-awareness, and social and economic conditions.

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