AM5003 - The American West

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What will I learn on this module?

Ever watched a Western film? Heard about the American frontier? Wondered how westward expansion helped redefine the United States? This is the module for you. It focuses on the American West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, inviting you to consider its culture, history, politics, and society. Key themes include race, the Western movie genre, western literature, the frontier’s impact on the West and America in a wider sense, and the environment, all of which will be examined through different theoretical and methodological approaches.

Learning about the different ways in which we can see, understand and explain the West will provide you with a better range of tools to form your own understanding and explanation of what we can observe in the world today. For example, considering Western movies will encourage you to think afresh about American violence, civilization, and gender. Analysis of the frontier will develop your understanding of American progress, masculinity, and racism. Thinking about the western environment will prompt you to reassess the relationship between our natural environment and society.

At a theoretical level, this team-taught module will introduce you to the concept of ‘place’ within a framework informed by the multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches of American Studies. In this, it should challenge you to consider the way that History interacts with, for example, Film or Literature, and surprise you by encouraging you to rethink your prior assumptions about the American Experience. You’ll never think about America in the same way again, we promise.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module by attending lectures that present core themes, a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to studying the American West, and key debates in the particular academic field. You will be expected to prepare for the weekly seminars by undertaking essential and recommended reading, and will build on your independent reading by presenting your ideas and arguments in seminar discussions with your peers. Learning materials, tasks and readings will be posted on the eLP (Blackboard) to enable participation within the seminar programme. You will participate in formative assessment activities, receive feedback, and will be responsible for your own guided and independent learning. Summative assessment matches your learning against the learning outcomes for the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through engagement with your peers, academic tutors, and programme leaders. Academic support is provided through group/individual tutorials which allow specific issues to be addressed and to promote progress in academic development. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised Feedback and Consultation hours and via email. Your peers will provide you will a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your course. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures, and resources available on the eLearning Portal. Formative feedback will be on-going throughout seminar activities and through assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. An ability to critically evaluate key themes, concepts, and issues in the interdisciplinary study of North America.
2. Critical evaluation of conflicting positions in significant debates or controversies concerning particular geographical sites or zones within or incorporating North America.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Demonstrate an advanced ability to consider the importance of debate and interdisciplinary discussion within American Studies in written form.
4. Demonstrate the acquisition of numerous skills including the ability to make independent critical judgments, handle a variety of theories and apply various concepts and disciplinary approaches when appropriate.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Cultural awareness and sensitivity towards different places, cultures, societies; curiosity about places both in specific and abstract contexts.

How will I be assessed?

The summative assessment will be made up of a portfolio, containing the following components, each designed to assess different skills.

1) Locate and select a significant political document. Students must construct a commentary on the document, outlining its context, and significance in shaping the politics of the location.
Commentary length: 750 words (15% of final mark) MLO: 1, 3, 4, 5
2) ‘Be a Western Booster’. The students (in groups of 3 ideally) create and exhibit a poster promoting the West. They have to choose a particular constituency they are advertising to, and a specific time period. They may also choose to ‘boost’ either the entire West or a specific region within it. The posters must be appended with a 500-word, fully referenced exegesis explaining their reasoning and the sources they used to create the poster, which may include images and text (not exceeding 1,500 words in total, including the poster and the explanation). 30% of final mark. MLO: 1, 2, 3, 5
3) Construct a critical review of one significant piece of cinema, chosen from an approved list.
Review length: 750 words (15% of final mark) MLO: 1, 4, 5
4) An essay evaluating the importance of one keyword from an approved list. Essay length: 2,000 words (40% of final mark) MLO: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The assessments together reflect the necessity for students to develop a broad knowledge base through lecture attendance and independent reading while also demonstrating conceptual awareness and the ability to develop and express coherent arguments that rely in part on this knowledge.

Pre-requisite(s)

N/A

Co-requisite(s)

N/A

Module abstract

Ever watched a Western film? Heard about the American frontier? Wondered how westward expansion helped redefine the United States? This is the module for you. It focuses on the American West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, inviting you to consider its culture, history, politics, and society. Key themes include race, the Western movie genre, western literature, the frontier’s impact on the West and America in a wider sense, and the environment, all of which will be examined through different theoretical and methodological approaches.

Course info

UCAS Code T700

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020 or September 2021

Fee Information

Module Information

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