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Erika M. Bsumek

Associate FacultyPh.D., 2000, Rutgers University

Associate Professor in the Department of History, College of Liberal Arts
Erika M. Bsumek


  • Phone: 512-471-3261
  • Office: GAR 2.104C
  • Office Hours: MW 4-5 p.m. & by appt.
  • Campus Mail Code: B7000


social and environmental history of the area surrounding Glen Canyon on the Utah/Arizona border from the 1840s through the 1980s


Research interests

Professor Bsumek has written on Native American history, the history of the consumption and production of both manufactured and handmade goods in the United States, and on the history of anthropology. She has also co-edited a collection of essays on global environmental history. Her current research explores the social and environmental history of the area surrounding Glen Canyon on the Utah/Arizona border from the 1840s through the 1980s. (The working title of the book is Damming Zion: Mormons, Indians, and the Damming of the American West). She is also working on a larger project that examines the impact that large construction projects (dams, highways, cities and suburbs) had on the American West and writing a book titled The Concrete West: Engineering Society and Culture in the Arid West, 1900-1970.


Courses taught

Native American history, U.S. West history, Environmental history, and Building America (you can read more about Building American here:



Her first book, Indian-made: Navajo Culture in the Marketplace, 1880-1940, explored the intersection of consumerism and ethnic identity construction.



Dads' Association Centennial Teachign Fellowship, 2014

New Mexico Book Award (2010) for Indian-made: Navajo Culture in the Marketplace, 1880-1940

Ralph Emerson Twitchell Award (2009), New Mexico Historical Society for Indian-made: Navajo Culture in the Marketplace, 1880-1940












UGS 356 • Imagined West And Real West-W

64625 • Fall 2009
Meets MWF 1000-1100 GAR 2.124

Dr. Erika Bsumek
Office: GAR 3.214
Class meeting time: M,W, F, 10-11:00
Room: Gar 2.124
Unique number: UGS 64625
Office hours: M,W, 4-5
Contact information: email:, phone: 475-7253

Imagined West/Real West: History, Art, and the Far West

This course will explore the history of the American West through art and literature produced from 1840-1980. The following questions will be addressed: How has the American West been represented at different moments in American history? Why were such images important? In what ways have artistic, cinematic, and literary representations of the region influenced the settlements, development, and importance of the region to national identity? Finally, this course will place the production of visual and literary representations of the West in historical context, exploring the ways in which real events and places were experienced in the West. It also looks at the ways in which people experienced the West. Comparisons between the realities of life in the West and the ways in which it was imagined  will be made.

Among the questions explored in this course will be:
- What is the West?
- What role have art, literature and cinema played in our understanding of the region?
- What is the relationship between the history of the West and American History?

Required Texts

The following books are available at the University Co-op.

Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
Oliver La Farge, Laughing Boy
Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places
William Goetzmann, West of the Imagination

Course Requirements:

Students will be graded on the following:
-  Course participation. Students are expected to attend classes. Attendance will be taken. Blackboard Posting: Three times over the course of the semester, students will log onto blackboard and ask one question about that week's assigned reading. Students will also answer someone else's question.
Worth  75 points.

-  Students will turn in weekly writing assignments. Papers will be due on each Friday. On weeks when we do not meet on Friday, please turn in the paper on Wednesday. Worth 120 points.  In these papers you should:
o    1: Tie lectures, discussions and readings together.
o    2. Critique one aspect of the reading or discuss a particularly strong response you had to the material. Although these are not "formal" essays, you need to turn in well-crafted papers. [A good paper should have a thesis statement and clearly stated topic sentences.]

-  Original research paper. Worth 175 points. Students will produce an original research paper 15-20 pages in length. We will discuss how to pick a topic, do research, and write this paper at length in class.

-  Presentation of Research. Once you have picked your topic and conducted a significant amount of research you will present your findings in class. Presentations should last between 5-7 minutes.  You should discuss how you picked your topic, the questions you are asking, and give specific details about your research findings to date. This is a formal presentation. You can be as creative as you like. Worth 75 points.

-  There is no final exam in this class. Students will turn in their papers on the last day of class.

Total points recap: Participation: 75, Weekly writing assignments 120 points, Original Research Paper, 175, Presentation of Research, 75 points.


Students receiving between 94-100 percent of the total points will receive an A.
90-93 = A-
87-89 = B+
83-86 = B
80-82 = B-
77-79 = C +
73-76 = C
70-72 = C-
67-69 = D+
63-66 = D

ACADEMIC HONESTY: Academic honesty is very important. You are expected to complete your own work. If you have any questions about  academic guidelines you may call me, 475-7253, or email me at ANY time. You should follow University guidelines regarding plagiarism and student conduct.  For further information see:

Important Notes:
1.  Respect the classroom environment. Turn off all cell-phones and electronic games.  Computers can be used for note taking. Do not read the newspaper, send text messages, or surf the web in class.
2.  Any handouts that you receive from me should be treated as required reading.
3.  My office is on the 3rd
Floor of Garrison. It is accessible by elevator. If, for some reason, my office is inaccessible to you, I will make arrangements to meet in a different locale.
4.  The University of Texas provides, upon request, academic accommodations for students with disabilities. For more information contact the Office of the Dean of Students, 471-6259 or 471-4641.
5.  I will follow University standards and rules regarding academic dishonesty. You should familiarize yourself with these standards [link provided above] and consequences of violations university policy.
6.  Email policy: I do not accept papers via email. I will answer student emails within 72 hours of receiving them.

Weekly agenda: You should complete the reading listed below the date and be ready to discuss the material prior to coming to class.

Week 1:

8/26: Introduction to course.

8/28: What is the West?
Reading: Goetzman, Introduction.

Week 2:

8/31: The Creation of Images
Goetzmann, Chapter 1

9/2: The Vanishing Race
Goetzmann, Chapter 2

9/4: Looking at Images, Evaluating meaning.

Week 3:

9/7 - Labor Day

9/9: What [not who] is the Noble Savage? Or, how Indians became Red.
Chapter 3, 4, 5

9/11: Course Handouts. Indian Voices from Peter Nabokov's Native American Testimony. In-class discussion/interpretation of documents.

Week 4:

9/14: PCL Meeting. GEM

9/16: Tentative Meeting at the Center for American History. GEM

9/18: How to do research and write a paper.
 How to pick a topic.
In class writing exercise.
Bring Goetzmann book to class.

Week 5:

9/21: Painting the West: Artists encounter the West.
Goetzmann, Ch. 4, 8
University Lecture: The State and the Economy - Tom Gilligan, Dean, McCombs School of Business.
There is also a University Lecture on 9/22: How to Know a Tyrant when you see one.

9/23: The Perilous West: Imagination and Reality.
Goetzman, Ch. 7

9/25: Blanton Tour of Western Art. GEM

Week 6: Post on Blackboard this week.

9/28: Manifest Destiny
Goetzman, Ch.11, 12

9/30: Manifest Destiny in the movies and American politics.
Viewing of scenes from The Covered Wagon by John Ford.
Goetzman, Ch. 30

10/2: In-class writing assignment; Trade Weekly papers. Peer review exercise.

Week 7:

10/5: Migration: Lived Experience v. imagined experience.
Goetzman, Ch. 13
Poems: "The Rio Grande" and "El Rio Bravo" by Americo Paredes

10/7: Going to California; living in California; encountering newcomers.
Goetzman, Ch. 14, 15

10/9: The Perils of Migration: The Donner Party Film
Week 8:

10/12: National Wonders: Creating National Parks and Dispossessing People
Goetzman, Ch. 16-19

10/14: The Frontier Photographers
Goetzman, Ch. 20

10/16: The Vanishing Frontier?
Frederick Jackson Turner Essay. Class Handout. You can also find a copy of this paper on:

Week 9:Post on Blackboard this week.

10/19: Cowboys: Beyond Black and White.
Goetzman, ch. 24-25

10/21: Indians and the Wild West
Oilver La Farge, Laughing Boy, p. 1-72

10/23: Research day. Please make plans to go to CAH, the Ransom Center, or the PCL and do research on your topic. I will be available in my office for consultation.

Week 10:

10/26: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and Literary Indians
Oliver La Farge, Laughing Boy, 73-128

Goetzman, Ch. 29

10/28: Playing Indian in the West
Oliver La Farge, Laughing Boy, 128-171
Tourism in the West.
Class handout:  Looking at Documents - Discussion

10/30: Tourism in the West
Oliver La Farge, Laughing Boy, 172-193
Touring San Francisco's Chinatown.

Week 11: Stegner's West

11/2: Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose, Part I- III
11/4: Stegner, Part IV-VI

11/6: Stegner, Part VII-IX

Week 12: Writing week.

11/9: First Draft of Paper Due.
11/11: Research day
11/13: Meetings with Professor. Discussion of Paper.

Week 13: Post on Blackboard this week

11/16: First Drafts returned
11/18: Writing day
11/20: Writing day

Week 14: In addition to reading Basso this week, you should spend this week revising papers

11/23: The Significance of Place in linking the past and the present
Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places, Ch. 1 and 2. Class discussion.

11/25: The Meaning of Stories in Understanding Place,
Basso, Ch. 3-4. Class discussion.

11/27: Thanksgiving holiday

Week 15:

11/30: Paper Presentations.

12/2: Paper presentations

12/4: Last day of class. Final papers due.

Curriculum Vitae

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