4 Credit Hours
The mythology of the American Frontier has had an unmistakable impact on American foreign and domestic politics, as evinced by everything from John L. O'Sullivan's concept of "Manifest Destiny" to John F. Kennedy's invocation of the "New Frontier" in his inaugural address of 1960. Upon arriving in the New World, the earliest European settlers of American gazed upon the wilderness with a mixture of fear and loathing; but by the 19th century, the vast, uncivilized territories west of the Mississippi River had come to symbolize the twin ideas of Progress and Providence. In the process of westward expansion, however, the American frontier was transformed into a stage upon which the young nation's darkest and most mercenary fantasies were acted out. This course will provide a formal introduction to reading intertextually as students examine the foundations of the "Frontier Mythology" in the first-person accounts of settlers, pioneers, Native Americans, politicians, and journalists of the 18th and 19th centuries before considering its enduring influence in the literature, film, and popular culture of the 20th century. Possible texts include THE SIGNIFICANCE OF FRONTIER IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Frederick Jackson Turner, NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTIVITY AND RESTORATION OF MRS. MARY ROWLANDSON by Mary Rowlandson, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS by James Fenimore Cooper, BLACK ELK SPEAKS by John G. Neihardt, RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE by Zane Grey, THE BIG SKY by A. B. Guthrie, Jr., and BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.