The Western Film Genre and the American Frontier Myth
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“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, Western art and culture. We will analyze classic Westerns and the myriad sub-genres that exemplify this distinctly American art form. In addition to diverse short readings and a screenplay or two, primary texts for this program may include Richard Slotkin's Gunfighter Nation,The Western Reader, edited by Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman, James McPherson's Into the West, and Thomas Schatz's Hollywood Genres. Home screenings will be required. Therefore, students will need access to a comprehensive source for DVD rentals, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. A sampling of films under consideration includes: The Searchers, Red River, High Noon, Little Big Man, Buffalo Bill and the Indians,Unforgiven and No Country for Old Men. Students will engage independently and collaboratively in readings, film screenings, seminars, workshops, and writing assignments. The program may include a field trip to view "The Art of the American West" exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum.
This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:
Film studies, Media Studies and American history
Credits per quarter
- Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
$20 fee for field trip to the Tacoma Art Museum to view an exhibit on the art of the American west.
Class Size: 25
Scheduled for: Evening and Weekend
Final schedule and room assignments:
Located in: Olympia