What is the American icon? What is the quintessential American image? The cowboy. The gunslinger. The loner riding his horse across the plain with his six-gun at his side. What is it about this image that speaks to the American and the global imagination? How accurate is this perception? Was there more to Western life than that? These are the questions the will open the door to the Western Literature course. As we proceed, we will look at written and filmed versions of popular Western American fiction to sort out fact from fantasy and to examine how this American iconography has evolved over time. Students will discover that the stereotypical image resonates with the desire for independence and initiative, as well as the distrust of authority gave birth to the United States. However, not surprisingly, students will discover that there is more to Western literature than that - just as there was more to life in the Old West than gunslingers and outlaws. Women, Native Americans, Mexicans, and Mexican-Americans all lived and died in the region and had unique perspectives on life there. All these will be explored over the course of the semester. Students will produce two essays and a brief research project during the semester as well as a number of small assignments such as journals and brief analytical writings. Students will engage in frequent small-group and class discussions to plumb the depths of this rich literary heritage.