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Unit 5 (11/6 – 11/27): The Western Genre in American Literature

Western films were not the first Westerns; the genre existed in literature long before film was invented. In this unit, we trace the invention and development of the Western as a form of American literature in popular culture. Start reading The Virginian as soon as you can; it’s deceptively long. Also in this unit, your final project is due, on Monday 11/16.

27. Fri 11/6 Where it Begins: The Dime Novel
Reading: excerpts from the amazing Stanford University Dime Novel Collection. The best way to get a feel for their collection is to browse the subjects of the thousands of cover art images, and click on a few that look interesting to you. Several full-text novels are here also; you should probably skim a couple of chapters, from any of the Westerns – e.g. Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick, California Joe, or Jesse James. Reading any two to four chapters (total, not from each book) should give you the flavor of this genre.

28. Mon 11/9 Western Writers Who Actually Went West
Reading: Mark Twain, Roughing It Chapters 1, 4, and 21 (read more if you want – or try a different online version with an easy-navigate table of contents)
Stephen Crane, “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” [pdf]

Wed 11/11 No Class

29. Fri 11/13 The Defining Western Novel: The Virginian
Reading: Owen Wister, The Virginian (entire)

30. Mon 11/16 Discussion Day: The Virginian
Reading: WOE, Ch 7 “The Virginian: Wister’s Mother”

Final Project is Due

31. Wed 11/18 Western Fiction
Reading: WOE, Ch 8 and 10 “Zane Grey” and “Homage to Louis L’Amour”

32. Fri 11/20 Wither the Western?
Reading: WOE Ch 11 and Epilogue, “Two Men” and “Fighting Words” AND Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” [pdf]. In-class links: “Writing a Good Western,” WWA, NYT, Bb, and BbF

33. Mon 11/23 Unit 5 Test

Wed 11/25 and Fri 11/27 Thanksgiving Break

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