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The Dismal Tide: Shoring Up the Fragments in Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men

Carter, Matthew (2009) 'The Dismal Tide: Shoring Up the Fragments in Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men.' IUP Journal of American Literature, II (3 & 4). pp. 73-89.

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Abstract

This paper focuses on Joel and Ethan Coen’s "No Country for Old Men" (2007), relating the film to the concerns of frontier mythology and connecting it to the sociopolitical issues affecting the 21st century USA. The paper addresses the role of myth in history and its impact on the Western genre and draws specifically on the historian Harold Rosenberg’s 1959 essay, "The Resurrected Romans". Rosenberg takes a cultural approach to history through a detailed analysis of Karl Marx’s "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" (1852). "The question of myth in history", asserts Rosenberg, “is the question of the hero. And the question of the hero is the question of resurrection” (1959, p. 141). However, just as myth seeks to eradicate the historicity of things, as Roland Barthes would suggest, so too does the historical element become lost on the hero, whose awareness is only of "eternal forms" (p. 142). In applying these issues to "No Country for Old Men", we find the hero, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) facing a quandary: Is his approach to current problems of law enforcement defined through these "eternal forms" or, can he learn from the past to become an agent in history rather than merely an effect of it?

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 13 May 2014 16:05
Last Modified: 13 May 2014 16:05
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/9416

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