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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Zweirad Szenen (8)—Western Caricature

Click here for the "Zweirad Szenen" Resource Center (all posts available)
Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Zweirad Szenen"
This is a "small" (小) post—click here for an explanation of Round and Square post lengths.
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On this date on Round and Square's History 
16 August 2014—China's Lunar Calendar 2014 08-16
16 August 2014—Theory Cartoons: Persistent Identity
16 August 2013—China's Lunar Calendar 2013 08-16
16 August 2013—From the Geil Archive: Southern Mountain Museum
16 August 2012—Rural Religion in China(12
16 August 2011—Displays of Authenticity: Mongolian Barbecue
[a] Cross-cultural Cliché RL
So I was minding my business yesterday, flying along the trails (as I perceived the experience), and was stopped in my cinder-meets-rubber tracks by a scene I just couldn't comprehend anymore (despite having grown up in the 1960s, with Gunsmoke and Bonanza). 

I am not proud of this.

Yet here, in the middle of Bavaria (Franconia), I saw an almost unbelievably stereotypical scene from an American movie set...except that the juxtaposition is just too odd.


It is a significant thread in our historical studies of other societies, and the German fascination with the American West has everything to do with one Karl May (1842-1912), whom I have been reading assiduously for the last three months (ever since I chanced to hear of him in a passing conversation at a café). He's a bit of a Jules Verne figure, but without the worldwide stage. In Deutschland, though, he has captured the imaginations of even the "latest" generation. The actor who played "Winnetou" in several movies just died, and it was national news.

So, I ask myself, how does such a scene even happen...anywhere, much less southern Germany, sechs, sieben, acht, oder neun time zones away...depending on how you count? Imagination, cliché, and the distinct power of certain writers to shape imaginings (and longings) for generations fuels it.

Karl May. We'll be "talking" about this very "accidental ethnographer" on Round and Square soon. There seem to be a whole bunch of them in the second half of the nineteenth century (men and women). Almost makes one think that something was going on....

As for the "scene" itself, I remain speechless.

[b] Karl May RF

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