The Story and Myth of the West

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
06 September 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module is an investigation of the origin myths of the U.S.A. It takes the Western as the paradigmatic form of United States literature and cinema, and examines the cultural fissures and influences that threaten and support the Megamyth of the founding of the United States.

Students will consider classic and contemporary westerns; 'outsider' westerns that trouble the hegemony of the grand narrative, and test the iconic western against a number of distinct narratives about the formation of the American identity, with a particular eye to the way that black, hispanic, latino, and aboriginal storytellers contribute counter-narratives of the settlement of the U.S.A. that nevertheless find themselves to be, over time, incorporated into the mythology of the Western - for better and for worse.

The module will address texts from across the history of the U.S.A., beginning with work produced on the frontier, and culminating in the present day. An interdisciplinary course of study, fiction and non-fiction writing and poetry sit alongside cinematic and theatrical texts, in order to foster a discussion of how, and why, the Myth of the West has gained the kind of mainstream cultural traction it has, and how it has not only survived, but continued to thrive into the present day.

Module aims

1. To use genre in order to focus a pan-historic discussion of literary and cinematic texts from the U.S.A
2. To link up the study of mainstream and outsider texts in order to define and interrogate the idea of contemporary cultural mythodology
3. To explore the cultural heritage of distinct forms of storytelling
4. To interrogate the concent of a 'national literature'
5. To explore the relationship between folklore and foundational mythodology, and contemporary society
6. To investigate the relationship between the Western as a narrative form, and the history of colonialism in the U.S.A.

Module learning outcomes

Students studying this course will:

1. develop an understanding of genre studies as a means of approaching literary scholarship
2. demonstrate a high level of critical thinking and interrogative practice
3. develop an understanding of a number of distinct theories relating to myth
4. become conversant with a century of literary and cultural history from the U.S.A.
5. demonstrate the ability to address distinct artistic (literary, cinematic, and theatrical) forms within a single, comparative conversation, in oral discussions and presentations, in essays, and in examinations
6. hone a critical vocabulary that permits students to address artwork from a number of cultural traditions with rigour and sensitivity.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 2-hour seminar A good deal of research support will be given throughout this module, including recommendations of critical and theoretical texts that support the content of each weekly seminar. Information about this course is available to students through Moodle.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Group presentation (submit slides to FASer. Presentations to take place in class time)    20% 
Coursework   Final piece (critical or creative) (5,000 words)    75% 
Coursework   Participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Jordan Savage, email:
Helena Bacon
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Doug Haynes
University of Sussex
Reader in American Literature and Visual Culture
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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