SPRING quarter dates and times:

Wednesdays (beginning April 4), 6-10 pm
Saturdays (Apr. 14 & 28, May 12 & 19, June 2), 10 am–5 pm

Program Information

American history is defined as much by myths, metaphors, and images as it is by actual individuals and events. For example, most Americans perceive the “taming” of the frontier through the perspective of the western movie. This program will analyze the Euro-American conquest of North America and the subsequent pattern of conquest that has characterized our history and identity as a people.  Through a combination of films (war, western and documentary), novels, and historical readings, we will examine the relationship of truth to legend, of image to and reality. Winter quarter we will focus on the Civil War, the subsequent frontier wars against the plains Indians, and the ecological conquest of the West. We will study the metaphor of the cowboy (and gunfighter) and other defining images that have shaped our collective psyche. We will examine myths, such as manifest destiny, stories, such as Last of the Mohicans, and popular entertainments, such as Buffalo Bill's Wild West. Spring quarter we will pursue this line inquiry into the 20th century, including U.S. intervention in Latin America, the U.S. role in the first and second World Wars, the Vietnam War as a phase of the Cold War, and the more recent resource wars in the Middle East.

Questions that form the basis of learning goals:

  • What is the relationship of myth to actual events in American history?
  • In what ways have politics and popular culture contributed to the legacy of conquest?
  • How does narrative impact the manner in which a film portrays history?
  • How do film images enhance or undermine our understanding of history?
  • What can we learn from a history book that we cannot learn from a film and vice versa?
  • What role does technology play in the presentation of history on film?
  • How does the business and culture of Hollywood (or the studio system) influence the portrayal of American history in the screenwriting process?  In the production process?
  • Is it important that a film be historically accurate given the budgetary and commercial forces that dominate the film industry?  Are independent films less likely to misrepresent history?

SPRING quarter books:

--James Jones, The Thin Red Line, Dell Publishing (Delta), ISBN 0-385-32408-1
--Michael Kerr, Dispatches, Vintage International, ISBN 0-679-73525-9
--Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, Houghton Mifflin Co., ISBN 978-0060938451
--Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0-8061-3031-8
--Richard White, It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN  0-8061-2567-5 (on reserve or for purchase for students who did not enroll winter quarter)
--John Kinzer, Overthrow, Times Books, ISBN 0-8050-8240-9