The University of Iowa

"The American West of the Imagination" is topic of WorldCanvass on December 10

November 16th, 2010

What do you imagine when you think of the American West, particularly the West of the 19th Century?  Join us at 5:00 p.m. on December 10 in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol when WorldCanvass guests explore “The American West of the Imagination.”  The event is free and open to the public.

History professor Glenn Penny has spent years researching the German ‘love affair’ with the American Indian, a passion which was widespread in the 1800s and continues into the present as demonstrated by the hundreds of hobbyists who descend on the Western landscape every year to put on buckskins and reenact life on the frontier.  He’ll share his thoughts with art historian Joni Kinsey who says that among those most enthralled by the imagined West were German painters.  English professors Eric Gidal and Phillip Round will help us understand 19th Century European intellectual thought and take us back to the early days of European exploration of the New World to consider what the idea of this distant and untamed land represented over time in the minds of Europeans.

We’ll compare and contrast this idealized German/European view of the American West with the reality as Native Americans knew it.  Native American history, poetry, religion, and connection to the land will be among the topics discussed by historian of the Meskwaki Tribe Jonathan Buffalo, history professor Jacki Rand, and specialist in Native American poetry Linda Bolton.  Omar Valerio-Jimenez of the UI History Department will reflect on the myth and the reality of the American West from the Chicano point of view.  Penny joins the group to discuss contemporary problems in the Western environment and the paradox of despoiling the West at the same time that we mythologize it.

And in the final segment of WorldCanvass, we examine early and contemporary film, literature, and popular culture related to the American West of the imagination.   How is the experience of westward expansion presented in popular film and literature?  Who are seen as the heroes and who are the villains and victims?  Corey Creekmur, professor of English and of cinema and comparative literature at the UI,  joins other guests to consider popular culture expressions from multiple points of view—the white majority population in the U.S. whose ‘manifest destiny’ was to push westward, the Native Americans, the Chicanos and Europeans.  Where does the truth lie?  What damage is done by stereotypes in popular culture? 

Please join us for the next WorldCanvass—“The American West of the Imagination”—on December 10.

Production partners are UITV, the Pentacrest Museums, KRUI and Information Technology Services.  UITV records WorldCanvass for later broadcast over Iowa cable television systems and for distribution on Iowa Public Radio and KRUI-FM at the University of Iowa. Live streaming is provided at the International Programs website and all programs are archived on the Public Radio Exchange.

Host Joan Kjaer blends discussions of culture, history, literature, language, politics and art with live musical performances, all in an effort to illustrate and illuminate the complexities that make us distinct from one another while celebrating our common humanity. The live productions take place from 5-7 p.m. one Friday a month in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol on the campus of the University of Iowa and are free and open to the public.

Produced by International Programs at the University of Iowa, WorldCanvass® explores topics that are international in scope and central to our understanding of ourselves as part of the global landscape.