English | Intro to Writing & Study of Literature 2
L142 | 1894-1900 | David Nordloh


Topic:  "AMERICAN WESTS"

The West--all that space beyond the boundaries of civilization on the
North American continent--is a central and inescapable part of the
American experience.  From the earliest moments of European
exploration that determined that what lay beyond the Atlantic was not
India or China but a space entirely new and unknown, vast and
uncharted, human initiative directed itself to travel and explore that
space, and the space beyond that, and the space beyond that.
Exploration revealed wealth and natural wonders, settlement
opportunities for natives and immigrants, challenges and possibilities
for individual talent.  And from the first moment fact got mixed with
dream and fantasy and ideal:  the West became a vast imaginative
terrain, the source and the object of stories--stories about
individual achievement and resiliency, about settlement, about the war
between civilization and wilderness, about competing visions of nature
as an ideal of creation to be protected and a commodity necessary to
support human life.

In this course we will read representative examples of these
materials, from the early 19th century to the present day--Daniel
Boone stories, stories about whites being captured by Indians, stories
of settlement and exploration, tall tales about Western characters,
novels and films about Western events.  In the first half of the
course, we'll concentrate on the West as seen by the dominant white
and Eastern culture, a west full of native "savages" and infinite
abundance of raw material and food supply ripe for the use, land of
adventure and opportunity.  In the second half we'll examine
alternative perspectives--how the natives and other non-whites see the
space and white intruders and destroyers, how environmentalists see
rarity to be protected rather than destroyed, how the very myth of the
West, rather than energizing and driving progress, can create false
hopes and destructive behavior.

The course meets four times a week, twice in lecture and twice in
discussion.  In addition to conscientiously attending these meetings
to get the fullest advantage of the development of the topic, students
will write several essays, including at least one representing
research and using outside sources, and will complete brief exercises
intended to enhance writing skill; take quizzes covering reading and
lecture content; and take a mid-term and a final examination,
combining multiple-choice questions and short answers.

Section 1894 - lecture; Sections 1895-1900 - discussions.