Themes in Literature: Frontier Literatures

English 1160
Frontier Literatures
Section 01
Rebecca Pelky
Arts & Science 235

It was in 1966 that Captain Kirk first told TV audiences that space was “the final frontier,” but long before Star Trek became a pop culture phenomenon the idea of the frontier began shaping America’s image of itself. In this class we’ll think about how stories were shaped by and also help to shape the idea of American frontiers. One of our areas of focus will be narratives by people who have different experience of spaces classified as frontier, such as African Americans, women, and Indigenous peoples. As we begin to stretch the boundaries of “frontier” as an idea, we’ll quickly move beyond historical representations to think about how frontiers emerge as a theme in today’s literature. How can we, for example, think about urban spaces in the context of frontier? Some genres covered will include dystopian and road-trip narratives as well as “westerns” set in America or in space. Writers will include Octavia Butler, Robert Frost, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Joss Whedon.