Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Summer 2012


Great Plains Quarterly 32:3 (Summer 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska.


Daniel Worden argues that masculinity isn't a biological identity or a fixed construct, but a type of performance that allows for fluidity, enabling individuals "the freedom to refashion the self and live as an equal among others." The men and women who assume such a style challenge a hierarchical system in which men are equated with power and dominance. They reveal a complex subjectivity, sometimes engaging in sentimental relationships and forming unorthodox friendships and unions-unlike the traditional cowboy, who is portrayed in literature as a rugged and isolate, though presumably heterosexual, male. Worden examines the subversion of stereotypical western masculinity in dime novels and formula westerns, tracing this mode of experimentation through the modernist period by analyzing works by Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck.