Online course: A Chronicle of the Frontier: The Western as Myth and History (returning Dec 3)

Chronicle of the Frontier



­­A 12-WEEK ONLINE COURSE (December 2022 – March 2023)


In this original 12-week online course, to be delivered via the Google Meet platform, we’ll study 19 Western features (and one short film) made between 1903 and 2010. Arranged as a chronicle of American history, these films collectively depict – and mythologize – a century and a half of frontier life, from the Creek War of 1813 to the lingering West of the 1960s.

The course will examine the history behind the myths, how these movies were made, and the aesthetics of the Western film. It will not only cover the American Western but also Westerns produced by Italy, Germany, and Mexico. 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 article. There will be no final exam or essay. This course is designed purely for enjoyment and discovery. All are welcome.

Weekly session: Saturdays at 12pm PT/3pm ET (North America)
(8pm UK time/9pm 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$140. Contact me at for further information.


December 3
Lecture 1. Introduction: The Western as Myth and History
COMANCHE STATION (1960) – Budd Boetticher [73min]
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) – Sergio Leone [99min]
Short: The Great Train Robbery (1903) – Edwin S. Porter [13min]

December 10
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]

December 17
Lecture 3. The Chisholm Trail (1851-1865)
RED RIVER (1948) – Howard Hawks [133min]
Reading: Excerpt from Roughing It by Mark Twain


January 14  January 21 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 4. The American Civil War and its Aftermath (1860s)
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976) – Clint Eastwood [135min]

January 21  January 28 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 5. The Franco-Mexican War (1860s)
VERA CRUZ (1954) – Robert Aldrich [94min]

January 28  February 4 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 6. The Apache Wars (1870s-1886)
FORT APACHE (1948) – John Ford [125min]
WINNETOU – 2. TEIL [LAST OF THE RENEGADES] (1964) – Harald Rienl [94min]
Reading: Excerpt from Story of his Life by Geronimo

February 4  February 11 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 7. Dodge City and Tombstone (1876-1882)
WINCHESTER ’73 (1950) – Anthony Mann [97min]
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) – John Ford [97min]


February 11  February 25 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 8. Outlaws (1880-85)
ONE-EYED JACKS (1961) – Marlon Brando [141min]
Reading: Excerpt from The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid by Pat Garrett

February 25  March 4 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 9. The Johnson County War (1889-1893)
SHANE (1953) – George Stevens [118min]
Reading: Excerpt from The Virginian by Owen Wister 

March 4  March 11 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 10. The Ice Frontier (1898-1900)
THE GREAT SILENCE (1968) – Sergio Corbucci [105min]
THE SPOILERS (1942) – Ray Enright [87min]

March 11  March 18 [Rescheduled]
Lecture 11. The Mexican Revolution and After (1910s-1920s)
LA CUCARACHA [THE SOLDIERS OF PANCHO VILLA] (1959) – Ismael Rodríguez [97min]
THE THREE AMIGOS (1986) – John Landis [103min]
Reading: Excerpt from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven

March 18  [Rescheduled – Date to be announced.]
Lecture 12. The Lingering Frontier (1920s-1962)
COMES A HORSEMAN (1978) – Alan J. Pakula [116min]
LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962) – David Miller [107min]
Reading: Excerpt from Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett