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Legacy of Conquest: (Re)Discovering the American West

INSTRUCTOR NAME: Sheri Karmiol                       EMAIL: metzger@unm.edu
CORE: Humanities

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, literature and film created an American West that became more than a historical reality; it became an imagined location, where reality was easily over-shadowed by the myth of the American West, in which war paint and heroic cavalry soldiers, saloon brawls and outlaws, and schoolmarms and working girls created a new truth.  Literature and film are mediums of information; however, both genres also convey and create mass culture.  While western novels and short stories are capable of creating a new history, it is the Hollywood film, with its emphasis on providing entertainment, that creates images, which the audience all too often perceives as real.  It is this intersection between fiction and reality that will be our focus during this semester. To construct the reality of life in the American West, we are reading excerpts from several histories of the American West. We will consider how western novels and film have created images of violence and of oppression, as well as a series of iconic figures associated with the western genre, including Cowboys, Indians, the Sidekick, the School Teacher, and the Saloon Girl.  However, this class is more than a study of the iconic American West, it is also a study of the reality that existed in the 19th century and that was later rewritten in film and novel. Our emphasis this semester is on how this revisioning of the American West created a legacy of the American West, especially for the American Indian, that obscures the truth of the past.

 

READINGS AND TEXTS

Tompkins, West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns

Class reader

 

FILMS AND OTHER COURSE MATERIALS

We will watch brief selected excerpts from several Hollywood films, including Great Train Robbery, Battle at Elderbrush Gulch, Shane, The Searchers, Wyatt Earp & Annie Oakley (both from PBS The American Experience: Wild West), The Battle of Little Jo, Forty Guns, Broken Arrow, Rio Grande, & High Noon.

 

COURSE FEE (if applicable) & BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF HOW FEES WILL BE USED

none

 

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS

Short papers, presentations, final project

 

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

Dr. Karmiol has a Ph.D. in British literature. Much of her academic research had focused on behavioral and social anthropology and the ethical and philosophical decisions that people make to adapt to changes in their lives.  Most of the classes that she teaches have centered on issues of social inequity, prejudice, and the marginalization of groups of people, who are classified as expendable members of society. Dr. Karmiol has been honored with awards for her teaching and has received two fellowships, including one for study at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  She also teaches classes on the Holocaust and on intolerance.