In 1958 — around the time that Roland Barthes was enjoying acclaim for Mythologies, and Jacques Derrida was defending his PhD thesis — the Texas-born guitarist and grad student AMÉRICO PAREDES (1915–99) published With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero. The first of the Mexican-American folklore scholar’s studies of corridos, machismo, and border stereotypes of Mexicanos; the book — because it was a beautiful mish-mash of literary studies, anthropology, comparative literature, and more; and because it dared to portray the heroic Texas Rangers as villains, and would-be bandit Gregorio Cortez Lira as a heroic social justice avatar — would prove an influential early work in the academic field we now know as Cultural Studies. Like Barthes and Derrida, Paredes was an outsider whose work in the margins of an established discipline profoundly changed the discipline’s course; unlike his French peers, however, Paredes saw his scholarship turned into a movie: The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982, starring Edward James Olmos, fresh off the set of Blade Runner). Hired as a professor that same year by UT Austin, Paredes would go on to change the course of Texan intellectual history. No, that’s not an oxymoron.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Alison Lurie.
READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).