ENGL 2115 American Frontiers

Instructor Contact:

Jaquelin Pelzer

Email: Jaquelin.pelzer@colorado.edu

About the Course:

As geographical place and imagined space, the West looms large in the American story. This course takes the literature of the American West as fertile ground to explore U.S. literature. From indigenous cultures to Euro-American settlers, from gunslingers and outlaws to lovers of nature and space cowboys, we will consider the idea of “going West” and seek correlations between the emergence of a Western frontier, Western myths, and the evolution of each in literature and popular culture.

Course Prerequisites: n/a


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 close reading assignments of increasing length & complexity. 4) Reading: foster reading confidence/comfort with reading long texts and encourage a life-long habit of reading.

Required Texts:

Yellow Bird (John Rollin Ridge), Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta (ISBN 9780143132653)*

Willa Cather, My Antonia (ISBN 978-0-525-56286-3)

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (ISBN 9780394758282)

Charles Portis, True Grit (ISBN 9781590204597)

(Additional short readings and videos posted to Canvas.)

*must use this edition

Grading (out of 100 total points):

Close Reading Exercise 1 – 7.5%

Close Reading Exercise 2 – 10%

Final Paper (comparative) – 20%

Reading quizzes (five open-book quizzes upon completion of modules) – 25%

Discussion posts (10 total posts) – 35%

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