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Writing the American West

ENGL 489.601
instructor(s):
W 6:30-9:10

(Note: This is a Masters of Liberal Arts [MLA] course, designed for graduate CGS students but open to advanced undergraduate majors.)

"Westerns" have long been a marginalized genre. In this course, we will will ask about the *functions* of marginalizing strategies-- how, for instance, they may help maintain the relative power of one region or cultural elite vs. another, or assist in the pursuit of other goals. We will ask whether marginalization may also offer readers, writers, and producers certain *advantages* to compensate for the disadvantages that marginal status confers. We will compare "westerns" with some other marginalizing ascriptions--reading, for example, a southern "regional" writer who uses "western" themes and some "mysteries"--and look at complexities that arise when two or more marginalizing ascriptors compete. We will also consider a number of movie westerns during the semester.  This course requires substantial reading, as well as two graded writing projects (a 4-5 midterm paper, a 10-15 endterm paper). There are no exams.

Assigned *BACKGROUND* reading will include:

Jane Tompkins, *West of everything*--literary background
Patricia Nelson Limerick, *The Legacy of Conquest*--historical
          background
P. Reyner Banham, *Scenes in America Deserta* OR Edward Abbey,
          *Desert solitaire*--geographical background
Robert Warshow, *The immediate experience*--"westerns" vs. "east-
          erns" in film (with associated readings by sociologist
          Arnold Green
Frederick Jameson, selections on literary marginalization

*PRIMARY* texts will include many of the following books (listed here more or less in the order in which we will approach them):

William Gilmore Simms, *The Yemassee* (and possibly Catherine Maria Sedgwick, *Hope Leslie*)
Owen Wister, *The Virginian*
(Penn alumnus) Zane Grey, *Riders of the purple sage*
Louis L'Amour, TBA
Frederick Manfred, *Lord Grizzly*
Jack Schaefer, *Shane*
Louise Erdrich, *Love medicine*
Susan Power, *The grass dancer*
James Welch, *The Indian lawyer*
Johhn Steinbeck, *The grapes of wrath* OR *East of Eden*
*The corner of Rife and Pacific*
*North of Montana*
TBA
*Fire on the Mountain*
*The ox-bow incident*
*City of Trembling Leaves*
*Track of the Cat*