English 178 - Fall, 2019

Topics in Nations, Regions, and Other Cultural Geographies

Class Information

Instructor: Wander, Ryan
CRN: 42099
Time: TR 12:10-1:30
Location: 146 Olson


    Literatures of the US West

    While the precise geographical contours of the US West have shifted over the course of the nation's history, the region's well-worn tropes probably seem quite a bit less labile than its shifting physical boundaries. Cowboys and "Indians," wide-open frontier spaces and vigilante justice, and a certain kind of toxic masculinity are, for many of us, familiar features of the landscape. Perhaps less familiar are narratives that give aesthetic form to subjects, subjectivities, and spaces that those well-worn tropes crowd out, such as working-class utopias, persecuted Mormons, racialized migrants, bachelor communities, subtly subversive performances of gender, and Orientalist anxieties. This course covers both the well-worn and the less familiar in order to examine the heterogeneous ways in which authors and artists have represented the region, and to consider the relation between these representations and the interests, desires, and social and economic conditions that have shaped the US West over time. Alongside materials including pulp Westerns, regional writing, immigrant fiction, and a range of visual representations of the region, we will read scholarship conducive to theoretical, historicized understandings of literary and artistic production in and about the US West.

    Tentative Reading List:

    Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart
    Sui Sin Far, selections from Mrs. Spring Fragrance
    Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage
    Bret Harte, "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and other selected stories
    Frank Norris, "The Third Circle" and other selected stories
    John Rollin Ridge, Joaquin Murieta
    Helena Maria Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus
    Edward Wheeler, Deadwood Dick, the Prince of the Road
    Selected critical and scholarly readings


    Essay 1: 25%
    Essay 2: 35%
    Final Exam: 20%
    Short at-home Writing Assignments: 10%
    Participation (including quizzes and in-class writing assignments): 10%