FRSEMR 63Y The American West: History & Myth





Chris Clements 
Wednesday 9:45 AM  – 11:45 AM 

Lil Nas X reinvented a Western aesthetic with his 2019 hit, Old Town Road: 

I got the horses in the back / Horse tack is attached / 

 Hat is matte black / Got the boots that’s black to match. 

The 20-year-old Georgia rapper joined a parade of artists, authors, scholars, and citizens who have blended the imagined and the historical into something entirely its own. This seminar traces how he and others, in the present and in the past, have engaged in similar kinds of reimagining while also attempting to uncover the material history of what we think of as the American West. The West has long been a site of conflict and violence, yet many insist that we see it as a land of adventure and opportunity. How did we arrive at this peculiar dichotomy? What is the American West, and what does its flexibility as a cultural concept teach us about America itself? How did a place vastly peopled by diverse communities and nations become imagined as an open and untouched expanse? How do the worldviews and experiences of a diverse array of Indigenous peoples complicate this mythology and the idea of the “American” West? We will consider the West’s portrayal in various mediums—historical documents, film, fiction, photography, painting, music, and more—and develop diverse analytical skills and interdisciplinary methods for answering these questions.