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"Visions of the West"

Some classic American images: a lone cowboy looking out over the southwestern desert; two gunfighters facing off in an empty street; Native Americans on horseback chasing a stagecoach or a covered wagon: they represent the mythic power of the American West.  This course will explore how themes like individualism, freedom, nostalgia and justified violence are layered and entwined in such iconic images, in film, painting, photography and sculpture.  Central to the course will be the analysis of how these themes are visually “encoded,” and of the role that this “encoding” plays in narrative and characterization. Beginning with 19th century American painting and photography, we will consider how later representations of the West have been influenced by visual archetypes established earlier. Related source readings will put the imagination of the West in historical and critical context.

“VISIONS OF THE WEST” is a new course that is cross listed in both in art history and film studies.