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THE WEST IN AMERICAN CULTURE (HIS-243224)

Center for Distance Learning Home > Distance Learning Catalog > Historical Studies >

Course Description:


In American history, the “West” is a mercurial concept that is freighted with many divergent meanings and associations. This course explores these multiple meanings, for the American West elicits many questions to consider: Is the West a geographic place or process called westering -- the frontier experience? Where are the West’s historical boundaries? Are there specific Western characteristics? Is the West a state of mind? Is it true that the West, according to some historians, is just America, but more so? To engage these questions, we will examine the variety of participants from the 16th century to the present who populated and imposed their hopes and desires on the land, while paying close attention to the historic struggles between sovereign nations to control the destiny and development of the West. This incorporates considering indigenous tribal sovereignty from pre-contact to the present. Moreover, this interaction included, and still includes, people from all over the world as agents and contributors to the cultural, social, economic, and often colorful milieu called the West. Most important, the American West has played a unique and pivotal role in our national culture that stimulated the expanded dominant role of the federal government throughout the United States and ultimately the world. This course is interdisciplinary in nature and the readings will be accordingly cross-disciplinary. First, a British scholar of American history investigates the origins of the mythic West in The American West: The Invention of a Myth. Second, an historian and former director of the Center for the American West at University of New Mexico, narrates the chronological historic West in Beyond the Missouri: Story of the American West. Third, in Western Places and American Myths, an historical geographer edits a group of essays that focuses on the tensions between the West as an exceptional region, not part of US national culture; the West as real and not mythic; and the West as a definite region, not a process. And finally, an American Studies scholar and historian discusses the impact of tourism past, present and future on the West in Devil’s Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West.

Prerequisite: College level writing and research skills.

This course fully meets the General Education requirement in American History.


This online course is offered through the Center for Distance Learning. You can take this as an individual course or as part of an online degree program, with term starts in March, May, September, November and January. View current term offerings and all online courses. Click here to register for online courses.

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Liberal Study
Upper Level
Credits: 4
Meets General Education Requirement In: American History-Full

Term(s) Offered (Subject to Change) : Spring 1. Fall 1.

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