Course Syllabus

Except for the required texts listed in the course introudtcion all assignments are availble as e-reserves or via the link provided on the website.

Week 1: Introduction: The American West as Myth

Tuesday, September 1

Course Introduction


Asher B. Durand, Progress, or The Advance of Civilzation, 1853, oil on canvas. Rudy Vanderlands, Driving East on Antelope Valley Freway, 2000, color photograph.

Thursday, September 3

Albert Bierstadt, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail, c. 1873, oil on canvas, 54 x 84 3/4 in. Stephen Shore, US 97, South of Klamath Falls, OR, July 21, 1973, color phorograph, 17 1/4 x 21 1/2 in..


Roland Barthes, “Myth Today, “ [1957] in Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), pp. 109-159.

Richard Slotkin, “Myth and Literature in a New World,” (excerpts) in Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier 1600-1860 (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), pp. 3-9, 13-14.

Week 2: Justification and Normalization

Tuesday, September 8

Kurt Wheeler

Image Gallery

William H. Truettner, “Ideology and Image: Justifying Westward Expansion,” from The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820-1920 ed. William H. Truettner (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), pp.27-54.

Martha A. Sandweiss, “Views and Reviews: Western Art and Western History,” in Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past, ed. William Cronon, et. al. (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1992), pp. 185-202.

Thursday, September 10

Yoseff Ben-Yehuda & Jamie Roux

Image Gallery

Kenneth Haltman, “Introduction: Figures in a Western Landscape,” from Looking Close and Seeing Far: Samuel Seymour, Titian Ramsey Peale and the Art of the Long Expedition, 1818-1823 (University Park: Penn State Press, 2008), pp. 1-27.

Claude Levi-Strauss, “The Science of the Concrete,” (excerpts), in The Savage Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), pp. 15-33.

Week 3: Manifest Destiny and Westering

Tuesday, September 15

Sarah Balog

Image Gallery

Francoise Forster-Hahn, “Inventing the Myth of the American Frontier: Bingham’s Images of Fur Traders and Flatboatmen as Symbols of the Expanding Nation,” in American Icons: Transatlantic Perspectives on Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century American Art, ed. By Thomas W. Ghaehtgens and Heinz Ickstadt (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1989), 119-146.

Lee Clark Mitchell, “Falling Short,” in Westerns: Making the Man in Fiction and Film (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), pp. 56-93.

Washington Irving, “The Trappers,” excerpts from The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1850), 1-14.

Thursday, September 17

Paul Clay

Image Gallery

Anne Baker, “Word, Image, and National Geography: Panorama Pamphlets and Manifest Destiny,” in American Literary Geographies: Spatial Practice and Cultural Production 1500-1900, ed. Martin Bruckner and Hsuan Hsu (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2007), 89-108.

Roger Cushing Aikin, “Paintings of Manifest Destiny: Mapping the Nation,” American Art 14 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 78-89. Available online

Angela Miller, "Space as Destiny: The Panorama Vogue in Mid-Nineteenth Century America," in World Art: Themes of Unity in Division, vol. 3, edited by Irving Lavin (University Park: Pennsylavnai Stat euniversity Press, 1986), pp. 739-44.

Week 4: Mapping the West

Tuesday, September 22

Josh Pemberton

Image Gallery

J. B. Harley, “Maps, Knowledge, and Power,” in Denis Cosgrove et al. The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 277-312.

John Rennie Short, “Mapping the National Territory,” in Representing the Republic: Mapping the United States, 1600-1900 (London: Reaktion, 2001), pp. 174-200.

Andro Linklater, “Introduction,” in Measuring America (New York: Walker & Company, 2002), pp. 1-6.

Northwest Ordinance [1785] Available online

Thursday, September 25

Emily Youatt

Image Gallery

Mark Warhus, "An Overview of Indian Maps," in Native American Maps and the History of Our Land (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1998), pp. 7-24.

G. Malcolm Lewis, “Indian Maps: Their Place in the History of Plains Cartography,” in Mapping the North American Plains: Essays in the History of Cartography, ed. Frederick C. Luebke et. al. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), pp. 63-80.

Week 5: West as Garden of Eden

Tuesday, September 29

Luke Fidler

Image Gallery

Henry Nash Smith, “The Myth of the Garden and Turner’s Frontier Hypothesis,” in Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950), pp.  250-60.

Claire Perry, “Cornucopia of the World,” in Pacific Arcadia: Images of California, 1600-1915 (New York: Oxford University Press, 199), pp. 61-97.

Nancy Anderson, “The Kiss on Enterprise: The Western Landscape as Symbol and Resource,’ in eds. Marianne Doezema and Elizabeth Milroy, Reading American Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 208-231.

Thursday, October 1 – No class

 Week 6: Surveying the West

Tuesday, October 6

Arty Johnstone

Image Gallery

Robin E. Kelsey, “Viewing the Archive: Timothy O’Sullivan’s Photographs for the Wheeler Survey, 1871-74,” Art Bulletin 85 (December 2003), pp. 702-723. Available online

Thursday, October 8

Oliver Mains

Image Gallery

Martha Sandweiss, “The Narrative Tradition in Western Photography,” in Photography in Nineteenth Century America, exh. cat. (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum, 19981), pp. 99-129.

Rebecca Bedell, “Thomas Moran and the Western Surveys,” in The Anatomy of Nature: Geology and American Landscape Painting, 1825-1875 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), pp. 123-146.

Assignment #2 due in class

Week 7: The Aboriginal West

Tuesday, October 13

Salim Moore

Image Gallery

Martin Berger , “Landscape Photography and the White Gaze,” in Sight Unseen: Whiteness and American Visual Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 43-79.

Alex Nemerov, “Haunted Supermasculinity: Strength and Death in Carl Rungius's ‘Wary Game’,” American Art 13 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 3-31. Available online

Thursday, October 15

Lara Pena

Image Gallery

Brian Dippie, “Green Fields and Red Men,” in George Catlin and His Indian Gallery, exh. cat. (Washington: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2003), pp. 27-62.
See virtual exhibition at

William H. Truettner, “Plains Geometry: Surveying the Path from Savagery to Civilization,” Winterthur Portfolio 38 (2003), pp. 199-220. Available online.

“The Indians in American Art,” Crayon 3 (January 1856) reprinted in Sarah Burns and John Davis, American Art to 1900: A Documentary History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), pp. 453-454.

Week 8: October 20 and 22 Fall Break


Week 9: The West vs. Modernity

Tuesday, October 27

Jill Jackson

Image Gallery

Alex Nemerov, “Frederic Remington: Within and Without the Past,” American Art 5 (Winter - Spring, 1991), pp. 37-59. Available online

Elizabeth Hutchinson, “When the ‘Sioux Chief’s Party Calls’: Kasebier’s Indian Portraits and the Gendering of the Artist’s Studio,” American Art 16 (Summer 2002), pp. 40-65. Available online

Thursday, October 29

Ty Blakeny

Image Gallery

Wanda Corn, “The Great American Thing,” in The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1932 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 239-291.

Sally Stein, “On Location: The Placemen (and Replacement) of California in 1930’s Photography,” in Reading California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 170-197.

Week 10: West as Negation

Tuesday, November 3

Sonia Vucetic

Image Gallery

Patricia Nelson Limerick, “Haunted by Rhyolite: Learning from the Landscape of Failure,” in The Big Empty: Essays on Western Landscape (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994), pp 27-47.

Wayne Fields, “Prairies ad the Literary Aesthetics” and Joni Kinsey, “Prairie Prospects: The Aesthetics of Absence” in Plain Pictures Images of the American Prairie, exh. cat. (Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1996), pp. vii-xvi, 11-31.

Wednesday, November 4

Screening, The Searchers (1956), 7 PM, BIO 19

Thursday, November 5

Emily Brown

Edward Buscombe, “The Western, A Short History,” Excepts) and  Clive Bush, “Landscape” in The BFI Companion to the Western (New York: Atheneum, 1988), pp. 17-24; 167-170.

Richard Hutson, “Sermons in Stone: Monument Valley in The Searchers,” in The Searchers: Essays and Reflections on John Ford’s Classic Western, ed. Arthur Eckstein and Peter Lehman (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004), pp. 93-108.

Week 11: The New/Abstract West

Tuesday, November 10

Charlie Renison

Image Gallery

John Szarkowski and Robert Adams, “The New West” in Reading into Photography: Selected Essays, 1959-1980 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982), pp. 45-50

Lewis Baltz, “Review of The New West,” in Reading into Photography, pp. 57-60.

Anthony Lee, “Photography in the Streets,” in Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), pp. 101-146,

Thursday, November 12

Evelyn Genadek

Image Gallery

Emily Neff, “Epilogue: The Abstract West,” in The Modern West: American Landscapes 1890-1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 237-273.

John Enderfield, “Diebenkorn at Ocean Park,” Arts International 15 (February 1972): 20-25.

Rosalind Krauss, “Grids,” October 9 (Summer 1979), pp. 50-64. Available online

Lecture: Kenneth Haltman "Flight and Predation: The Western Art of Alfred Jacob Miller, Revisited," 5:30 PM, PSYCH 105.

Week 12: Autotopia or The Carceral City

Tuesday, November 17

Ella Gold

Image Gallery

Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies [1971], (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), pp. 16-55, 93-159, 205-215.

Thomas Pynchon, “A Journey into the Mind of Watts,” New York Times Magazine (12 June 1966), p. 35, 78. Available online.

Elizabeth A. T. Smith, “Domestic Cool: Modern Architecture and its Image in Southern California,” in Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury, exh. cat. (Newport Beach: Orange County Museum pf Art, 2007), pp. 63-79.

Ann M. Wolfe, Suburban Escape: The Art of California Sprawl, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006). (skim)

Thursday, November 19

Tess Halavy

Image Gallery

Cécile Whiting, “The Erotics of the Built Environment,” in Pop L.A.: Art and the City in the 1960s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), pp. 109-137.

Assignment #3 due in class.

Week 13: LA Case Study: Ed Ruscha

Tuesday, November 24

Elizabeth Bidart

Sylvia Wolf, “California Topographies,” in Ed Ruscha Photography, exh. cat (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2004), pp. 128-169.

Ed Ruscha, “LA Suggested by the Art of Ed Ruscha,” in Leave any Information at the Signal (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002), 220-224

Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies [1971], (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), pp. 57-93, 195-204, 217-226.

Thursday, November 26

Thanksgiving Break: No Class

Week 14: Sunshine/Noir

Tuesday, December 1

Caroline Rideout

Image Gallery

Sidney Tillim, “The Underground Pre-Raphaelism of Edward Keinholz,” Artforum, (April 1966), pp.38-40.

Maurice Tuchman, “A Decade of Edward Kienholz,” Artforum, (April 66), pp 40-44.

Joan Didion, “Los Angeles Notebook,” in Stumbling Towards Bethlehem (New York: Farrar, Strauss, 1968), pp. 217-224.

Mike Davis, “Fortress L.A.,” in City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles (London: Verso 1990), pp. 223-263.

Wednesday December 2

Screening Chinatown (1973) 7 PM, BIO 19

Thursday, December 3

Becca Roberts

Liahna Babenar, “Chinatown, City of Blight,” in Los Angeles in Fiction: A Collection of Essays, ed. David Fine, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995), pp. 273-85.

Rosalyn Deutsche, "Chinatown, Part Four? What Jake Forgets about Downtown,”  Assemblage 20 (April 1993), pp. 32-33. Available online

Garrett Stewart, “The Long Goodbye from Chinatown,” Film Quarterly 28 (1974), pp. 25-32. Available Online

Week 15: California as/is Postmodernism

Tuesday, December 8

Margaret Cardenas

Image Gallery

Lawrence Welschler, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), pp. 45-210.

Jean Baudrilliard, America (excerpts) [1986], trans. Chris Turner (New York: Verso, 1988), pp. 52-61,121-128.

Thursday, December 17

Assignment #4 (Due in my office mailbox at 5 PM)