University of Notre Dame

Making the American West

AMST 30185: Making the American West

Instructor: Annie Coleman

This course takes cowboys, Indians, and the tourist west seriously. At once timeless and placeless, concepts like the “frontier” and the “Wild West” are also deeply rooted in western history and environments. How did the mythic West emerge in the 19th and 20th centuries? How has it hidden the native, gender, labor, and environmental realities of the West while also directly shaping them? We will examine expressions of the West ranging from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Black Elk Speaks, and iconic visual culture, to western tourist resorts, popular film, and public history sites. We will end by exploring cultural critiques of mainstream mythic images and suggesting some critiques of our own. Course requirements will include reading, discussion, occasional film screenings, and smaller writing assignments as well as a final project where students present their own version of the West for public consumption.