Course Description: Cowboys and Comanches, Longhorn cattle, rodeos, the Texas Rangers and their Colt pistols, ranches the
size of small states, oil barons, Friday Night Lights, Dallas, the Dallas Cowboys, barbecue and country music,
politicians like Lyndon Baines Johnson, and George Bush, Sr. and Jr. – these and many other images/stereotypes often come to mind
when thinking about the Lone Star State, and Texans have long prided themselves (the less generous say
“swagger”) on their larger-than-life landscape, history and culture, their “exceptionalism” even within the already exceptionalist American national narrative.
Indeed, as the only U.S. state that was previously its own nation (the 1836-1846 Republic of Texas), Texas can claim many current “firsts” as well,
some of dubious distinction. So, Texas is first in the U.S. in wind power generation (indeed, if Texas was a country, it would rank # 5 in the world in this category),
but it also tops the list for CO2 emissions and hazardous waste. It boasts some of the nation’s best research universities
but has the second lowest percentage of high school graduates in the country (California is “first”) and the largest prison population.
Meanwhile, though Democrats have long hoped that a rapidly-expanding Hispanic population may make the state “theirs” in the near future, at present,
Texas, outside of the “blue” islands of Austin and Houston (and occasionallyDallas), is one of the most aggressively Republican and conservative states in
In short, Texas is in fact a “land of contrasts,” and in this class we will venture across its landscape(s), culture(s) and recent (sometimes longer term)
history to find out how this bellwether state has impacted the nation as a whole, and where/how it might swing its weight in the future.