Going West: An Interdisciplinary Study of Marfa, Texas

Department or Program

American Cultural Studies


From Christopher Columbus’ colonialist “discovery” of America in 1492, to Thomas Jefferson’s dispatching of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the West in the early 1800s, the idea of “going west” has been part of the American consciousness. This thesis is an investigation into the tiny desert town of Marfa, Texas that links past narratives of going west to present-day experiences of the region. Marfa, located in the southwest corner of the state, is comprised of 1,819 residents and is an unusual mecca for the contemporary arts. In the 1970’s renowned minimalist artist Donald Judd, looking to escape the New York City art scene, purchased an old military base in Marfa and began installations centered around the idea that artwork should be permanently affixed to its environment. This thesis employs numerous Cultural Studies methodologies, drawing upon historic discourse analysis, cultural ethnography, creative nonfiction writing, photography, and critical theory to explore the aftereffects of Judd’s influence on the town. I argue that Donald Judd’s move from New York City to Marfa reflects a reverberated desire for the modern American to go west and experience a unique “freedom” that the myth of the western landscape offers. Further, using Patricia Nelson Limerick’s concept of the “newest new West” and Walter Benjamin’s notion of the Angel of History, I illuminate the ways in which modern experiences of Marfa echo the past.

Level of Access

Restricted: Archival Copy [No Access]

First Advisor

Plastas, Melinda

Second Advisor

Osucha, Eden

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Archival Copy

Document unavailable for viewing.