English R1A

Reading and Composition: The Idea of the West

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2014 Zisman, Isaac
TTh 9:30-11 222 Wheeler

Book List

Johnson, Dennis: Train Dreams; Pynchon, Thomas: The Crying of Lot 49; Robinson, Marilynne: Housekeeping; Wallace, David Rains: The Klamath Knot

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader:  Selections from T.C. Boyle, Joan Didion, Cecil S. Giscombe, Jack London, Jon Raymond, Peter Rock, and Gary Snyder. 

Screenings:  McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Robert Altman; Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock; Twin Peaks (selections from season one), David Lynch.


In this course, we will examine a variety of texts in order to ask the question: what do we mean when we talk about the West? What is it that writers and artists imagine might be possible here at the edge of the American expansion, far from the urban and cultural centers of the older East? This will not be a class about cowboys, though such figures do appear. Rather, we will work through what Wallace Stegner called the response to the West, “the response of eager, dazzled, deluded, often misguided, greedy, spiritually impressionable people to country more overwhelming than they had previously known.” Through the critical activity of close reading, we will consider how these various authors—disparate in backgrounds, eras, and geographies—treat the experience of western landscape and how, in turn, that experience transforms into aesthetic project, a way of seeing the world, an idea.

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