Although the boundaries of what is considered “the west” have shifted over the past three centuries, the region has always loomed large in American mythology. Imagined at various times as a virginal wilderness, savage frontier, bountiful garden, and heavenly utopia, the west has served as a reflection of Americans’ wildest hopes and most urgent fears. From its “wide open spaces” where individuality and freedom might finally flourish to its promise of opportunity and re-invention, the west continues to inhabit a central place in American culture. This course will focus on the religious dimensions of Americans’ fascination and interactions with the west during the nineteenth century. Using a mix of recent writings by historians and primary sources from people who lived during the era (missionaries and converts, map makers and ghost dancers, Mormon exiles and Chinese immigrants), we will consider how religious ideas shaped day-to-day life in the west as well as how religion influenced how the region was imagined, conquered, and transformed.
This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.
Public College or University Institution Type
Syllabus Resource Type
Undergraduate Course Class Type
2012 Date Published
Religious Studies, American Studies, Area Studies, History Discipline
Other Christianities Religous Tradition
Gender/Women/ Sexuality, Race/Ethnicity, Region/Urban/Rural, Nationalism/War/Civil Religion, Science/Technology/Environment Topics