On Brokeback Mountain: Meditations about Masculinity, Fear, and Love in the Story and the Film

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On Brokeback Mountain: Meditations About Masculinity, Fear, and Love in the Story and the Film provides a close, detailed, comparative discussion of the short story and the film in relation to ways of understanding masculinity and love between men in American culture. It uses analytical ideas from gay and lesbian/queer studies, American studies, social history, film history, and literary history, but avoids specialized theoretical language in order to be accessible to the many people interested in the story and the film. Original, interdisciplinary, and engaging, On Brokeback Mountain is intended to be not only useful to academic specialists but also accessible and readable for any interested, educated reader.
The two versions of Brokeback Mountain are significant for taking readers and audiences inside the perspectives of men who love men, showing what physical and emotional passion, and hostility toward that passion, may be like for them. The story and the film help in understanding the many men who love men and who don't fit stereotypes of gay men or participate in the gay/queer worlds of urban/academic communities, especially men in rural areas and in working class contexts. This book examines the presentation of friendship, sex, and love between men in Brokeback Mountain, as well as the depiction of homophobia and its effects on men who love men and their families. It relates the story and the film to the literary tradition of the homoerotic pastoral, the literary/movie tradition of the Western, and the tradition of the tragic romantic love story.

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About the Author:

Eric Patterson is associate professor of American Studies and American Literature at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Review:

This reader-friendly and thorough study of Brokeback Mountain enhances our enjoyment of the film and the original story, and expands our awareness of crucial social justice issues. A personal essay as well as an enlightened volume of cultural criticism, this study moves, informs, and creates a community of readers. A groundbreaking inquiry in gender studies, Eric Patterson's new work gives us language for what it means not only to be masculine, but to be human. (Marilyn Kallet, University of Tennessee and author of fourteen books, including Circe, After Hours and co-editor of Sleeping With One Eye Open:)

A brilliant, powerful investigation that makes sense of the sensational reception of the 2005 Ang Lee film and traces the beauty of it back to the Annie Proulx short story it was based on, this is a book for everyone who saw Brokeback Mountain or read about it. Eric Patterson's writing will remind you of that one inspiring English teacher whose class you wish you could take again, dazzling you with funny and intriguing insights about the political and literary contexts of both the film and fiction. Companionable with current scholarship theorizing space, regionalism, and the rural homosexual, On Brokeback Mountain is also a timely contribution to significant discussions about how gay and lesbian studies and queer theory have myopically focused on urban identities. This book is as poignant as the movie it elucidates and will be just as gratefully embraced by freshmen and farmers alike. (Carol Mason, University of Kentucky)

Eric Patterson's new book is at once useful and inspiring. Through attentive and insightful readings of Annie Proulx's powerful story and Ang Lee's moving film, Patterson not only brilliantly explicates these significant works of art, but also places them in a variety of revealing contexts. The result is cultural criticism at its finest: informative, committed, passionate, humane. (Claude J. Summers, William E. Stirton Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at University of Michigan-Dearborn and General Editor, www.glbtq.com, an)

Before reading this book, I thought I appreciated the achievements of Brokeback Mountain. I am grateful for Eric Patterson's passionate and richly insightful illumination ― of the story and film as artistic works, and of the cultural realities that informed their creation and fuel their potency. (Will Fellows, author of A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture and Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in 1997.)

Eric Patterson's book is a success on three levels. It can be read as a companion to understanding the film and story; it can be used as a text in studying the social impact of the film and story at the university level; and whether you are a veteran of our forum discussions or newly struck by Brokeback fever, this book will add an extra dimension to your appreciation of Brokeback Mountain as a masterpiece of modern literature and film. (The Ultimate Brokeback Forum, March 2008)

When Owen Wister invented the Western in his best-selling 1902 novel, The Virginian, he placed at the heart of the genre the love that "dare not speak its name," with an eastern narrator enamored of a stalwart ex-Virginian. A century later, Brokeback Mountain caused a critical eruption in its frank exploration of the passion that has always been a part of cowboy life. The triumph of Eric Patterson's study of both Proulx's story and Ang Lee's film is to show how fully the narrative of Jack and Ennis is a part of our national romance. In nuanced chapters, Patterson explores a series of related issues―the elegy, histories of homosexuality, Whitman's poetry, romantic love, ranging in the process from Virgil's Eclogues to Kinsey's studies of sexuality―all in an effort to understand at once the triumph of Brokeback Mountain as narrative and its separate stylistic achievements, as well as the torrent of slurs against its basic premise. Patterson is an impassioned reader, though never intemperate, and through a careful accumulation of readings of every aspect of both story and film, makes his case simply, successfully, elegantly, that this is not only a triumph of the genre, but a masterpiece in its own right. (Lee C. Mitchell, Holmes Professor of Belles-Lettres and professor of English at Princeton University and author Westerns: Making the Man in Fi)

Eric Patterson has created...[a] reader-friendly examination of the short story and the film adaptation....Brokeback fans will want to read this thorough analysis....Patterson's book is a powerful tribute to the story and film. (Gay and Lesbian Review)

Well researched and nicely written ... insightful not only into the Brokeback Mountain narrative but also into the troubling history of sexual prejudice. (Journal of American Culture, March 2009)

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