A series of mountains vanishing in the distance

The frontier’s myths and promises have both inspired and impeded U.S. American enterprises. On one hand, the frontier stands for freedom, fresh starts, and rugged individualism. At the same time, the frontier is a site and source of genocide, dispossession, and lynch mob mentality. This class will explore the ways that this beguiling and brutal contradiction has indelibly shaped U.S. literature and popular culture. We will consider the U.S. mainland’s ever-receding frontiers through novels by James Fenimore Cooper and Laura Ingalls Wilder; the wild west of John Rollin Ridge’s poems and Bret Harte’s short fiction; the transnational frontiers of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” and the spaghetti western; the U.S.-Mexico border of Jovita Gonzalez and Eve Raleigh’s historical romance; the “space western” of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and James Cameron’s Aliens; and Thomas King’s postmodern satire of Native and western entanglements.

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