Proseminar: The Frontier Myth in American Literature

Dozentin: Christina Caupert M.A.
Termin: Do. 15.45-17.15 Uhr
Raum: 1003

Even though the American frontier – the extreme limit of settled land where civilization is supposed to end – was declared closed already in 1890, the fascination with this central American myth remains undiminished. Its association with newness, freedom, independence, adventure, heroism and divinely ordained expansion has been captivating the literary imagination for centuries, and its frame of reference has not been restricted to the geographical frontier, but has broadened to include military actions, the fight against poverty, and the exploration of outer space. At the same time, however, the frontier myth has often been dealt with from a critical point of view since it propagates some rather problematic imperialist and chauvinist attitudes. The settlement of the land, for instance, is by no means as “innocent” as the traditional myth will have it, but is inseparably connected with the displacement and murder of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. In this seminar, we will examine the myth in its various shapes, from the classic description of pioneer life to science-fiction stories.
Please note: Participants must have read The Last of the Mohicans by the second week of the semester.

Teilnahmevoraussetzungen: Introductory course

Scheinerwerb: timely fulfillment of reading and homework assignments, regular attendance, active participation in class, presentation, term paper

Einführende Lektüre bzw. Textgrundlagen:
Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans. 1826. Introd. Richard Slotkin. New York: Penguin, 1986.
Cather, Willa. My Ántonia. 1918. Introd. Gordon A. Tapper. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2005.
Please make sure you buy the specified editions of the novels.
Various additional texts will be available as master copies from the middle of March at the Amerikanistik office (room 4064).