Erin E Gayton
Examines the conventions that define genres and their historical evolution. Focuses on one or two genres taken from the traditional modes of lyric poetry, tragedy and comedy, and epic, or from the popular forms of gothic romance, detective and mystery stories, and journalistic fiction.
This course examines the conventions that define the American Western. We’ll investigate the origins and evolution of the genre across the 20th century, paying particular attention to the ways the genre responds to shifts in American values and political discourse, and grapples with questions of national and gendered identity. As we move into the second half of the 20th century, we’ll look at critical and creative responses to the Western in the post-Vietnam era, and the reemergence of the Western post-9/11. Our focus will be on western novels and stories by Owen Wister, Jack Schaefer, Dorothy Johnson, Ishmael Reed, Sherman Alexie, Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx. We’ll also be working closely with two films (High Noon, Blazing Saddles) and recent television (Deadwood, Firefly).
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Discussion and occasional lectures. Some in-class writing.
If possible, get a jump on the reading (there’s a lot of it!) by starting Owen Wister’s novel, The Virginian (Penguin Classics edition). If you aren’t particularly familiar with Westerns, I recommend watching few films in preparation for class.
Class assignments and grading
Participation in class discussion and/or discussion board is vital to both your grade and the success of the class. Assignments include occasional in-class writing, a midterm and final, and a paper (5-6 pages).