The Western Film Genre and the American Frontier Myth

Spring 2020
Evening and Weekend
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 25
8 Credits per quarter
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Taught by

         “When history is translated into myth, the complexities of social and historical experiences are simplified and compressed into the action of representative individuals or heroes."

                                               -Richard Slotkin,  Gunfighter Nation 


The Western is the richest and most enduring genre of American film.  More myth than history, it is both formula film and a source of great innovation. Beginning with Reconstruction, this program will examine the important connections between the Western and the tale of expansion (economic, geographic, ecological, cultural) and violent conquest that is the American frontier myth. We will consider how the Western has evolved over the past century and what this evolution tells us about film, history and culture. We will analyze classic and contemporary Westerns and the myriad sub-genres that exemplify this distinctly American art form. In addition to diverse short readings and a screenplay, primary texts for this program include Gunfighter Nation, The Western Reader, and The Frontier in American Culture . HOME screenings are required and screening groups are encouraged. Students will therefore need access to a comprehensive source for screening and/or DVD rentals, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. A sampling of films we will study includes:  Stagecoach, The Searchers, Red River, High Noon, Little Big Man, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Brokeback Mountain, Unforgiven , Godless , and The Ballad of Little Jo .   Students will engage independently and collaboratively in readings, film screenings, seminars, workshops, and writing assignments. Our study may include a field trip to view the exhibit, "The Art of the American West" at the Tacoma Art Museum.


This class has five alternating Saturday classes that meet on April 11 & 25, May 9, 16 and 30.


Spring 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (8): 30284

Academic details

Preparatory For

Film studies, Media Studies and American history 

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing


Time Offered
Evening and Weekend
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

LIB 1412 - Workshop


Date Revision
2020-03-27 Student fee removed due to field trip cancellation