ENGL 2115 American Frontiers


Jaquelin Pelzer

Email: jaquelin.pelzer@colorado.edu


As geographical place and imagined space, the American West holds a special position in the stories and histories of the United States. This course explores the idea of the West through its literature. From precolonial indigenous cultures to 19C Euro-American settlers, from cowboys to gangsters, from lovers of nature to dystopian climate refugees, we will consider the idea of “going West” and seek correlations between the emergence of a Western frontier, Western myths, and the potential decline of each.


In this class, we will study literature to achieve these primary aims:

1) Content Knowledge: authors and texts, national themes and historical contexts, major literary movements, and more. Reading quizzes at the end of each module will cement the knowledge gained by doing assigned readings and attending to introductory lectures and discussion post prompts.

2) Analysis: digesting texts for structure, themes, style, and commonalities and differences among them, including discussion posts and close readings.

3) Writing: expression of understanding, analysis, and synthesis through three papers of increasing length and complexity.

4) Reading: foster reading confidence/comfort with reading long texts and encourage a life-long habit of reading.


Yellow Bird (John Rollin Ridge), Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta

Willa Cather, My Antonia

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Charles Portis, True Grit

Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

(Additional short readings and some films posted to Canvas.)


Out of 100% for total course assignments:

Close Reading Exercise – 7.5%

Paper 1 (single text) – 15%

Paper 2 (comparative) – 20%

Reading quizzes (online quizzes upon completion of modules) – 25%

Discussion posts – 30%

Syllabus quiz – 2.5%

(Opportunities for extra credit may be announced during the term.)



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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado