History | American West in Myth & History
A200 | 30282 | J. Paddison


Above class meets with AMST-A 201

Although the boundaries of what is considered “the west” have
shifted over the past three centuries, the region has always loomed
large in American mythology. Imagined at various times as a virginal
wilderness, savage frontier, bountiful garden, and emergent utopia,
the west has represented Americans’ wildest hopes and most urgent
fears. From its “wide open spaces” where individuality and freedom
might finally flourish to its promise of opportunity and re-
invention, the west continues to inhabit a central place in American
culture.

This course will track Americans’ changing views of the west during
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will examine a wide range
of perspectives, including that of explorers, missionaries, tourism
promoters, runaway slaves, politicians, suffragists, immigrants,
artists, poets, novelists, rappers, and filmmakers, paying special
attention to how Native Americans and Mexican Americans viewed the
transformation of lands they deemed not west but home. Along with an
array of visual and textual primary sources from the period, we will
also read recent scholarly books and articles on the intertwined
myth and history of the American west.