Online course: A Chronicle of the Frontier: The Western as Myth and History



­­A 12-WEEK ONLINE COURSE (January-April, 2022)


In this original 12-week online course, to be delivered via the Google Meet platform, we’ll study 18 Westerns made between 1946 and 2021. Arranged as a chronicle of American history, these films collectively depict – and mythologize – more than a century of frontier life, from the Creek War of 1813 to the ranches of Montana in 1925.

The course will examine the history behind the myths, how these movies were made, and the aesthetics of the Western film. We’ll also study the careers of legendary directors such as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, Anthony Mann, and Budd Boetticher. It is designed as both an overview for curious newcomers and a fresh look for long-time fans of this great and often controversial American genre.

Classes are limited to a maximum of 12 students. Each week I’ll give an original lecture presentation and then lead an in-depth group discussion. All participants will have a chance to contribute. The only weekly homework will be to watch a film (or two), and occasionally read a short story. There will be no final exam or essay. This course is designed purely for enjoyment and discovery. All are welcome.

I will be running two identical sessions each week to accommodate different international time zones. Choose whichever you prefer:

American session: Sundays 3pm PT/6pm ET
European session: Mondays 7:30pm UK time/8:30pm CET.

(NB. The lecture portion of the session will be recorded and available for download if you are unable to attend a live session and need to catch up.)

Price per student: US$130. Contact me at for further information.


January 16 (US)/17 (EU)
Lecture 1. Introduction: The Western as Myth and History
RIDE LONESOME (1959) – Budd Boetticher [73min]
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) – Sergio Leone [99min]

January 23 (US)/24 (EU)
Lecture 2. The Wild Frontier (1813-1845)
DAVY CROCKETT: KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER (1955) – Norman Foster [92min]
MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010) – Kelly Reichardt [104min]

January 30 (US)/31 (EU)
Lecture 3. The Chisum Trail (1851-1865)
RED RIVER (1948) – Howard Hawks [133min]
Reading: TBA

February 6 (US)/7 (EU)
Lecture 4. The Civil War and its Legacy (1860s)
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976) – Clint Eastwood [135min]
Reading: TBA


February 20 (US)/21 (EU)
Lecture 5. The Franco-Mexican War (1861-67)
VERA CRUZ (1954) – Robert Aldrich [94min]
ADIÓS, SABATA (1970) – Gianfranco Parolini [104min]

February 27 (US)/28 (EU)
Lecture 6. The Apache Wars (1870s-1886)
FORT APACHE (1948) – John Ford [125min]
GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND (1993) – Walter Hill [115min]

March 6 (US)/7 (EU)
Lecture 7. Dodge City and Tombstone (1876-1882)
WINCHESTER ’73 (1950) – Anthony Mann [97min]
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) – John Ford [97min]

March 13 (US)/14 (EU)
Lecture 8. Outlaws (1880-85)
ONE-EYED JACKS (1961) – Marlon Brando [141min]
Reading: TBA

March 20 (US)/21 (EU)
Lecture 9. End of the West (early 1900s)
THE SHOOTIST (1976) – Don Siegel [100min]
RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962) – Sam Peckinpah [94min]

March 27 (US)/28 (EU)
Lecture 10. Oil (1898-1927)
THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) – Paul Thomas Anderson [158min]
Reading: TBA

April 3 (US)/4 (EU)
Lecture 11. The Mexican Revolution (1910s)
A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (1966) – Damiano Damiani [118min]
Reading: TBA

April 10 (US)/11 (EU)
Lecture 12. Montana (1925)
POWER OF THE DOG (2021) – Jane Campion [126min]
Reading: TBA