Spring 2012 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Gossin, Pamela
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6330 Section 001
F Time 10:00 AM - 12:45 PM
Course Title
Great Plains in Lit & Film

Description of Course:

In this course we will explore the Great Plains experience through the narratives offered by American Regional literature, from the late 19th - early 21st centuries. From its days as imagined frontier and native habitat, through the era of early Anglo-European exploration and settlement, from cowtowns through the Dust Bowl, into modern agricultural / industrial development, the region known as the Great Plains has experienced tremendous transformation. The unique landscape has served as a vast canvas for inscribing human lives and history. The creative literature of the Great Plains represents individual, social and environmental changes as written upon / and by the hearts and minds of the men and women who lived them.

Throughout the course we will trace the nature and variety of natural description; the relationship of men and women to the land; the creative tensions of exploration and domestication; the place of the Great American Desert within the American Dream; the myth and magic of the wild, wild, west. Why was the land conceived of as “virgin? Why were settlers disappointed in the beauty of the land west of the Mississippi? Why was the land itself so valued as personal property? How did the “sea of grass” teach people to live upon it? Did the wind really drive lone women out on the range insane? How did the vast horizon open possibilities and promote new fears? How did the “crazy quilt” of settlement patterns unite the history of the human past with stories of the future? What continuing meaning can the stories of the Great Plains hold for us today? This interdisciplinary class will combine a few mini-lectures, with film, music and art.

Required Texts:

(tentative list -- subject to change)

James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie, Penguin Classics, 1987 # 014039026X
John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks Bison Books, 2004 # 0803283857
Willa Cather, O Pioneers, Vintage, 1992 # 0679743626
Sinclair Lewis, Mainstreet, Signet Classics, 1998 # 0451526821
Sinclair Ross, As for Me and My House, New Canadian Library, 1989 # 0771099975
Guthrie, Woody, Bound for Glory, Plume, 1983 # 978-0452264458
John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath Penguin (Viking Critical), 1997 # 0140247750
Wright Morris, The Home Place, University of Nebraska Press, rpt 1999 # 0803282524
Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Mariner Books, 2001 # 0618127240
Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Perennial, 1994 # 0060976241
Weldon Kees, Collected Poems, Bison Books, 2003 # 0803278098
Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, 2004 # 1556597019

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Two presentations with 2 pp written summaries over a biographical source and scholarly article PLUS one 3 pp “natural experience” response paper, all averaged together = 1/3rd

One 10-12 pp seminar paper with 1 p. abstract + oral presentation of abstract = 1/3rd

Daily attendance and active participation in class discussion = 1/3rd

© The University of Texas at Dallas School of Arts and Humanities.
No part of this website can be copied or reproduced without permisssion.