American Masterpieces 321 (RRN) -- The American Frontier

Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.

Fall Semester 2003, NC 204, Tuesday 8:30 – 12 noon

Course Syllabus

 

Description:  In this course we will explore the following themes as they appear in American Westerns and Vietnam literature:  (1) the definition of "frontier" and the role the frontier plays in shaping an American identity in literature; (2) the distinction between the West as a place or landscape and the West as a symbol; (3) the mythic western hero and the roles he and/or she plays in the formation of American values including our sense of justice, independence, community; (4) the defining and re-defining of "masculinity" and "femininity" as those cultural terms are used in the movement west; (5) the different discourses (voices) in American westerns and Vietnam literature; and (6) the evolution of Western myths and the significance of those cultural myths as we conclude the year 2003.
 

Required Texts:

·        Shane by Jack Schaefer

·        The Quiet American by Graham Greene

·        The Oxbow Incident by Walter Van-Tilburg Clark

·        The Jump-Off Creek by Molly Gloss

·        Fools Crow by James Welch

·        Gabriel’s Story by David Anthony Durham

·        When I Was a Young Man by Bob Kerrey

·        Shrapnel in the Heart by Laura Palmer

·        Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams

·        Stories from Close Range by Annie Proulx   
 

We will read Chapter Twelve from Ian Frazier’s On the Rez and three short stories from Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx:  "The Mud Below," "A Lonely Coast," and "Brokeback Mountain."  Copies of the chapter and these stories will be placed on reserve in the Viterbo University library.

 

Learner Outcomes:  The students will become familiar with the history of the American western and “frontier” literature and the literary conventions and themes of both genres.  The students will demonstrate in writing and discussion a connection between the themes identified in American westerns and frontier literature with the history of the movement west, their personal experiences, and the experiences of others within and without their culture.  The students will demonstrate in writing and discussion fulfillment of Core Abilities 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

 

Requirements and Assessment:

For an "A" the student must satisfy the following criteria:

 

·        Have one or no absences.

·        Read all of the required texts and participate in class discussions.

·        Write four three-to-five page response essays on any of the assigned texts.

·        Complete a superior project and present the conclusions to the project to the class at the final exam session.  Click here for some sample project assignments.
 

For a "B" the student must complete the following criteria:
 

·        Have no more than two absences.

·        Read all of the assigned texts.

·        Write three two-to-three-page essay responses to any of the required texts.

·        Complete an excellent term project.
 

For a "C" the student must complete the following criteria:
 

·        Have no more than three absences.

·        Read all of the assigned texts.

·        Complete a term project.


 

Schedule of Class Meetings

Week One: August 26

Introduction to the American Western and Vietnam War Literature
Movie clip from "City Slickers"

  • Begin reading Shane by Jack Schaefer
  • Selection from Journals of Lewis and Clark "North Dakota journals from the spring of 1805" on reserve in the library
  • "Reading the West: Cultural and Historical Background" pp. 1-51 in Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Westerns on reserve in the library
  • "Introduction" from The Literary West on reserve in the library
  • "American Frontier" from Oxford History of the American West on reserve in the library
  • Click here for the hypertext of the Journals of Lewis and Clark
  • Click here for a web site on the history of the Vietnam War

Week Two: September 1 (Labor Day)

  • Continue Introduction to Western Literature
  • Shane by Jack Schaefer
  • Click here for discussion questions on Shane
  • Begin reading The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • Click here for a web site for Frederic Remington
  • Click here for an excellent web site on Remington and Charles Russell
  • "A Good Man with a Gun: Shane" (1953) from Gunfighter Nation on reserve in the library
  • "Women and the Language of Men" from West of Everything on reserve in the library
  • Film "Shane" on reserve in the library
  • "My Neighbor’s Field" from Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin on reserve in the library
  • Click here for John Gast's painting, American Progress
  • Click here for a good web site of Western Art with many links to various artists
  • "Reading the West: Cultural and Historical Background" from Reading the West pp. 1-51
  • "The Virginian (1902) and the Myth of the Vigilante" from Gunfighter Nation on reserve in the library
  • "The Virginian: Wister’s Mother" from West of Everything on reserve in the library
  • "Violence" from Oxford History of the American West on reserve in the library

Week Three: September 8

  • Read and discuss "The Mud Below" and "Brokeback Mountain" from Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx.  Click here for discussion questions for these short stories.

Week Four: September 15

  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • Click here for a Graham Greene home page (with short biography)
  • Click here for discussion questions for The Quiet American
  • Click here for notes on The Quiet American
  • Begin reading The Jump-Off Creek by Molly Gloss
  • First essay due.  Click here for some tips on writing a successful essay.
  • "Neighbour Rosicky" by Willa Cather on reserve in the library
  • "The Female Frontier: Definitions, Interpretations, and Images" from The Female Frontier on reserve in the library.
  • "Women as Workers, Women as Civilizers: True Womanhood in the American West" from The Women’s West on reserve in the library pp. 145-164.
  • "Homesteading in Northeastern Colorado, 1873-1920; Sex Roles and Women’s Experience" from The Women’s West on reserve in the library.

Week Five: September 22

  • The Jump-Off Creek by Molly Gloss
  • Click here for discussion questions on The Jump-Off Creek
  • Read and discuss "A Lonely Coast" from Close Range
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather
  • Click here for discussion questions for My Antonia
  • Click here for the Madonna of the Prairie painting
  • Click here for an image of Eastman Johnson's Old Kentucky Home, 1859
  • Begin reading The Ox-bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  • "The Archetypal Ethic of The Ox-Bow Incident" from The Literature of the American West on reserve in the library
  • Film "The Ox-bow Incident" on reserve in the library

 Week Six: September 29

  • The Ox-bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  • Click here for discussion questions on The Ox-bow Incident
  • Click here for a discussion outline on mob mentality
  • Click here for a learning guide to the movie The Ox-bow Incident
  • Begin reading When I Was a Young Man by Bob Kerrey

Week Seven: October 21

  • When I Was a Young Man by Bob Kerrey
  • Click here for a review of When I Was a Young Man
  • Begin reading Gabriel's Story by David Anthony Durham
  • Second essay due
  • Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic
  • Click here for discussion questions on Born on the Fourth of July
  • Click here for a web site on Born on the Fourth of July
  • Click here for the PBS web site on the Vietnam War
  • Click here for a comprehensive web site on the Vietnam War
  • Click here for a long list of web sites on the Vietnam War Period

 

Week Eight: October 28

Gabriel's Story by David Anthony Durham

Click here for discussion questions for Gabriel's Story

Click here for notes on naturalism

Read If I Die in a Combat Zone from The Vietnam Reader pp. 41-46.

      Click here for Tim O'Brien's home page

      Read "A Bummer" from The Vietnam Reader p. 83.

      Read "A Rumor of War" from the Vietnam Reader pp. 150-199

      Click here for a list of helpful web sites on the My Lai Massacre

Week Nine: November 4

  • Shrapnel in the Heart by Laura Palmer
  • Click here for a web site on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Film "The Wild Bunch" on reserve in the library
  • "The Demoralization of the Western: Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969)" from Gunfighter Nation on reserve in the library

Week Ten: November 11

  • Fools Crow by James Welch
  • Click here for Fools Crow discussion questions
  • Click here for a web site on the Plains Indians (from the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody Wyoming)
  • Click here for a Lakota Sioux web site
  • Click here for a George Catlin's painting "Pigeon Egg Head"
  • Click here for a comprehensive list of Native American web sites (courtesy of Dr. Mike Smuksta, History)
  • "Dances with Wolves" on reserve in the library
  • "Introduction: How the West Was Lost" from Our Hearts Fell to the Ground on reserve in the library
  • "The Old Life" from The Last Days of the Sioux Nation on reserve in the library
  • Click here for the Early Days of the Sioux

Week Eleven: November 18

  • Fools Crow
  • Read Chapter Twelve of On the Rez by Ian Frazier
  • Third essay due
  • Click here for an outline on individual identity
  • Click here for a web site on Native American religions
  • Click here for a "real life" Fools Crow
  • Click here for On the Rez  Click here for discussion questions on SueAnne BigCrow
  • Click here for the PBS web site on George Armstrong Custer
  • Click here for another "ground zero" web site on Custer

Week Twelve: November 25 

  • Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
  • Click here for discussion questions on Refuge
  • Click here for an interview "The Politics of Place" with Terry Tempest Williams
  • Click here for a Web Page on Terry Tempest Williams as an environmentalist
  • Click here for the official Web Page of the Mormon Church
  • Click here for the official "missionary" Web Page for the Mormon Church
  • Click here for a definition of ecofeminism by Rosemary Radford Reuther
  • Click here for a research and reference guide to "nature, ecocriticism, and ecofeminism
  • "Religion and Spirituality" from Oxford History of the American West on reserve in the library

Final Exam--presentation of class projects

  • Presentation of class projects
  • Click here for some suggestions for a successful presentation
  • Final essay due