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Film, Television, and Book Essentials

Reading list available on Talis Aspire


week 1: No teaching

week 2: The Genre That Will Not Die/introduction to the class

Charles Portis, True Grit (1952) [essential reading]

*Marguerite Roberts and Henry Hathaway, True Grit (1969)

*Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit (2010)

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men (2005)

*Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men (2007)

Will Wright, Six-Guns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western (1975)

Jim Kitses, The Western Reader(1998) and Horizons West (rev. 2004)



The trailer, 1969:

The Courtroom scene, 1969:

With Stonehill, 1969:

Serving some papers, 1969:

The river crossing, 1969:

The Texas Brush Popper, 1969:

Cabin killings, 1969:

Rooster's Story, 1969:

The original Mexican Bob, 1969:

Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man, 1969:

Trailer, 2010:

Man with grit, 2010:

Ain't no coon hunt, 2010:

One-eyed fat man, 2010:

The crossing, 2010:

Hanging man, 2010:

Mr Sugar/Chigurh compilation, 2007:

The motel, 2007:

Interview with the Cohens, 2007:

week 3: The Frontier

FJ Turner, "The Frontier Thesis" (1893) and "The Significance of History" (1890) in Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner (1999) [essential reading]

Theodore Roosevelt, The Winning of the West (1889-1906)

Vine Deloria, Custer Died For Your Sins (1969)

Patricia N. Limerick, Legacy of Conquest (1987)

RJ Slotkin, introduction, Gunfighter Nation (1992) [essential reading]

John Muir, Wilderness Essays (1980); see also Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (rev. 2014)

additional John Muir resources:

and more:

*George Stevens, Shane (1953) and clips:

See also the 1949 novel--

*Clint Eastwood, Pale Rider (1985)

and clips:

and please read this article on Pale Rider:


week 4: The Last of the Mohicans


5 to 10-minute student presentations on an aspect of Cooper's Last of the Mohicans 

group 1 Imogen Stoodley and Patrick Phelps

group 2 Max Lewington

group 3 Oliver Toms and Charles Edwards

James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826) [essential reading]

*Maurice Tourneur, The Last of the Mohicans (1920)

*Phillip Dunne and Michael Mann, The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Cassandra Jackson, Barriers Between Us: Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (2004) [highly recommended reading]

Glenda Riley, Confronting Race: Women and Indians on the Frontier (2004)

Rick Altman, “A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre,” Cinema Journal (23: 3) spring 1984: 6-18 [highly recommended]


week 5: Ramona, Genocide, and the Westerns That Make Purists Uncomfortable


Student presentations on Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona

Group 1 Holly McCulloch and Milo Pope

Group 2 Louis Laidler

Group 3 Alex Cooper and Sam Brooks

Helen Hunt Jackson, A Century of Dishonor (1880)

Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona (1884) [essential reading]

Dydia De Lyser, Ramona Memories: Tourism and the Shaping of Southern California (2005) [highly recommended]

Julie Des Jardins, Women and the Historical Profession in America (2003)

See also Soldier Blue (1970) and read

Tomas Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines (1999) [highly recommended]

Benjamin Madley, An American Genocide (2016) [highly recommended]


week 7: Dime Novel Heroes


Student presentations on the dime novel

Group 1 Oliver Hill, Miles Ronchetti, and Calvin Mattoo

Group 2 Katori Huang and Francesca Gordon

Group 3 James Dawson, James Brook, and Vaughan De Sousa

Joy Kasson, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, Celebrity, Memory, and Popular History (2000)

Louis Warren, Buffalo Bill's America (2005) [highly recommended] but this is just as good: Warren, "Cody's Last Stand," Western Historical Quarterly (spring 2003) on JStor

HN Smith, Virgin Land (1950)

Michael Denning, Mechanic Accents (1987)

Col. Prentiss Ingraham, The Adventures of Buffalo Bill from Boyhood to Manhood (New York: Beadle & Adams, 1882): see [essential reading]

See The Gunfighter: [highly recommended]


week 8: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder


Student presentations on Wilder

Group 1 Gloria Kwakye, Bethany Edwards, and Chloe Haycock

Group 2 Caitlan Cassidy

Group 3 Jacob Jefferson and Henry Potter

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods (1932) [essential reading]

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie (1935) [highly recommended]

Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires (2017)

*Little House on the Prairie (NBC, 1974-83); the pilot: [essential reading]


week 9: The Return of the Rebel: Jesse James

Student presentations on The Virginian

Group 1 Millie Jackson, Rohini Jaswal and Eddie Kaye

Group 2 Liam McCorry and Charley Dos Remedios

Group 3 Fraser Beresford, Alex Allen, and Cameron Butcher

W.B. Lawson, Jesse James, the Outlaw: A Narrative of the James Boys (New York: Street and Smith, 1901): see [essential reading]

TJ Siles, Jesse James (2007)

*Henry King, Jesse James (1939): available here: [highly recommended]

*Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Please also read something of Owen Wister's The Virginian (1902), available on project Gutenberg, here:


week 10: The Hollywood Indian

Student presentations on Zane Grey and Vine Deloria's Custer Died...

Group 1 Marion Nsilulu, Dylan Sayers, and Laura Holland

Group 2 Helen Mendell and Christian Prieto-Bourne

Group 3 Jack Turner, Joe Quick, and Eunice Oshiguwa

Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970) [essential reading]

Zane Grey, The Vanishing American (1925) [highly recommended]

Robert Berkhofer, The White Man's Indian (1978)

Elise Marubbio, Killing the Indian Maiden (2006)

Vine Deloria, Custer Died For Your Sins:

*George B. Seitz, The Vanishing American (1925) available here:

*Kelly Reichardt, Meek’s Cutoff (2011)


week 11: Women with Guns

Student presentations on Kolodny and Brown


Niven Busch, Duel in the Sun (1943)

*David O. Selznick and King Vidor, Duel in the Sun (1946)

Dee Brown, The Gentle Tamers (1958)

*Arthur Penn, Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Annette Kolodny, The Land Before Her (1984)

Karen Jones, Calamity: The Man Lives of Calamity Jane (2020)

*Callie Khouri and Ridley Scott, Thelma and Louise (1991)

See Forty Guns:


week 12: The Modern West: The Hitch-Hiker (1953)


*Ida Lupino, The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Eric Avila, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight (2004)

Vincent Brook, Driven to Darkness (2010)


week 13: Better Dead Than Red: Cold War Westerns


Suzanne Clark, Cold Warriors (2003)

*Carl Foreman and Fred Zinnemann, High Noon (1952)

Mari Sandoz, Cheyenne Autumn (1953)

Philip Drummond, High Noon (1992)

JE Smyth, ch. on High Noon in Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance (2014)

week 14: Racism of a Different Colour: "Giant" (1956)


Edna Ferber, Giant (1952)

Donna Campbell, “Written with a Hard and Ruthless Purpose: Rose Wilder Lane, Edna Ferber and Middlebrow Regional Fiction,” in Lisa Botchon and Meredith Goldsmith, eds., Middlebrow Moderns (2003)

JE Smyth, “Jim Crow, Jett Rink, and James Dean: Reconstructing Ferber’s Giant,” American Studies 48: 3 (2007): 5-27; Edna Ferber’s Hollywood (2009)

*George Stevens, Giant (1956)

Laura Gomez, Manifest Destinies (2008)


week 15: John Wayne


*John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)

Ernest Haycox, “Stage to Lordsburg” (1937)

Edward Buscombe, Stagecoach (1992) and The Searchers (2000)

*John Ford, The Searchers (1956)

*John Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Mark Roche and Vittorio Hoesle, "Vico's Age of Heroes and the Age of Men in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" in Hollywood and the American Historical Film (2012)

Barry Keith Grant, ed., Stagecoach (2003)

Gerald Peary, ed.,John Ford Interviews (2001)


week 17: Clint Eastwood


*Clint Eastwood, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976); Unforgiven (1992); Gran Torino (2008)

*Sergio Leone, The Dollars Trilogy (1964-66)

Robert Kapsis and Kathie Coblentz, eds., Clint Eastwood Interviews (2012)

Christopher Frayling, Spaghetti Westerns (1981)

Roberta Pearson and Ed Buscombe, eds., Back in the Saddle Again: New Essays on the Western (1998)

Edward Buscombe, Unforgiven (2004)

Drucilla Cornell, Clint Eastwood and Issues of American Masculinity (2009)

Richard Schickel, Clint: A Retrospective (2017)


week 18: Small-Screen Heroes


*Rawhide (1959-65)

*Gunsmoke (1955-75)

*The Lone Ranger (1949-57)

*Wanted Dead or Alive (1958-61)

*The Big Valley (1965-69)

*Breaking Bad (2008-13)

David Greenland, Gunsmoke Chronicles (2015)

Michele Hilmes, ed., NBC: America's Network (2007)

James Baughman, Same Time, Same Station (2007)

Richard West, Television Westerns: Major and Minor Series, 1946-78 (1987)

Gary R. Edgerton, The Columbia History of American Television (2007)

Elliott West, “Shots in the Dark: Television and the Western Myth,” Montana: The Magazine of Western History 38:2 (spring 1988): 72-76


week 19: Easy Riders: Westerns in the1960s


*Sam Peckinpah, The Wild Bunch (1969)

Prince, ed, The Wild Bunch (1999)

Paul Seydor, Peckinpah (1980)

Peter Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (1998)

Tim Bergfelder, “From Soho to Silverlake: the Karl May Westerns,” in International Adventures: German Popular Cinema and European Co-Productions in the 1960s(2006): 176-206


week 20: "Chinatown" and the Postmodern Afterlife of the West


*Robert Towne and Roman Polanski, Chinatown (1974)

Norman Klein, The History of Forgetting: LA and the Erasure of Memory (1997)

David Fine, Imagining Los Angeles (2004)


week 21: Playing Cowboys and Indians

and revision 1

Stephanie Barczewski, Magic Kingdoms (2016)

Adam Chapman, Digital Games as History (2016)

Richard Snow, Disney's Land (2019)

Blake Allmendinger, The Cowboy (1992)

Esther Wright, “Video Games and American Studies: Red Dead Redemption 2,” US Studies Online (2019):

week 22: Second week of revision