Past President’s Address 1993

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Past President’s Address 1993

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

AN EASTERN DUDE RIDES WEST—AGAIN

Joseph M. Flora, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, WLA President 1992


WLA Past-presidential Address, given 1993 in Wichita, Kansas


Asked for a title for this address, I at first toyed with “A Tenderfoot Rides West.” I am, after all, the first WLA president to come from an eastern university, to have eastern roots, to have spent virtually all of his life east of the Mississippi. But tenderfoot hardly seemed right. I have been a WLA member for too long, and you have charged me with too many tasks for that sobriquet to work. You’ve rewarded me with merit badges and unbounded good fellowship—and in 1992 the honor of Head Scout. Thank you for the spurs.

So I opted for dude, which in one of its meanings carries the eastern connotation. Definition number one of my dictionary reads, “An easterner or city person who vacations on a western ranch.” Listed as slang in definition three, dude is “a fellow, a chap.” In any sense, the word is informal, as this address is designed to be. For any tautology, apologies.

The label West is, of course, a much more slippery word than dude. It conveys history as well as mythology. At the University of Michigan, we sang—and folks there still sing—“Hail, hail to Michigan, the champions of the West.” Michigan originated as a part of the Northwest Territory. “Easterners” certainly thought of it as a wild, wild West. As late as 1866, when native Ohioan William Dean Howells published Venetian Life, James Russell Lowell expressed amazement that a book of such “airy elegance” could have been written by someone from “the rough-and-ready West.” Such attitudes survived Lowell. I recall from my undergraduate days Austin Warren’s explaining to Michigan students that cultured Bostonians thought of anything west of Pittsburgh as one vast region known as “Ioway.” Easterners are wont to make midwesterners feel like westerners.

But though the tension between East and West has been one ingredient of American life, historically the pull west has been the dominant pull. Most Americans, in some ways, have been westerners. In his whole life, Thomas Jefferson never ventured more than a few miles west of Monticello, but he it was who maneuvered the Louisiana Purchase; he it was who sent Lewis and Clark on their great journey to the Pacific. To good purpose, J. Golden Taylor included Cambridge, Mass., poet E. E. Cummings in his anthology of western American literature, along with Robert Frost, who, though born in San Francisco, is counted the great poet of New England experience. Easterners and midwesterners of my generation and the generation before me grew up with a vision of the West. We thought about it a lot. We were guided by Zane Grey and a host of other popular writers who wrote Westerns. Almost weekly, we would see at least one Western film, sometimes more. And West was where California lay—still the promised land in those pre-Joan Didion days.

And so I remember the adventure of my first trip to the trans-Mississippi West. In graduate school, I thought a change of scene for a summer would enhance my preparations—two summer sessions in one summer at Berkeley would allow me to make a good start on my German, and I could take a couple of English courses besides. It was a happy choice: thirteen weeks on the campus by the Bay, in what seemed to me weather close to that of Heaven. It was wonderfully rewarding. One weekend took me to Yosemite, another to Napa Valley, and on another I flew to Los Angeles to see an aunt and uncle I hadn’t seen in years and a cousin I had never met. Los Angeles didn’t seem very different from Detroit, but Yosemite was terrain that spoke adventure. Unlike the owl in Mark Twain’s “Baker’s Blue Jay Yarn,” I was not disappointed. Mostly, of course, I was taking in the ambience of Berkeley and San Francisco. My thoughts had been Western in a larger sense mainly on the cross-country drive to Berkeley. How wonderful it was—and how keen was that very special moment when our automobile crossed the Mississippi. I was in the West.

I relived the magic of my first crossing some fifteen years later, when Scribner’s published Hemingway’s The Nick Adams Stories. It contained a fragment that Philip Young titled, aptly enough, “Crossing the Mississippi.” This was probably Hemingway’s first attempt at a story set west of the Mississippi. Nick is bound, apparently, for Kansas City, though we don’t know why. It may not be a bad guess that he was going to begin work on a newspaper. It’s October of 1917. News of a White Sox victory over New York in the World Series cheers Nick, helps him check the wasteland images that he sees as his train pauses before making its crossing. Nick takes with him the optimism that many travelers from the East or Midwest took as they made that crossing. Hemingway wrote, “Crossing the Mississippi would be a’ big event [Nick] thought, and he wanted to enjoy every minute of it.” The reality is different from what Nick had expected, but he observes carefully as the train progresses over the long bridge, “The river seemed to move solidly downstream, not to flow but to move like a solid, shifting lake, swirling a little where the abutments of the bridge jutted out. Mark Twain, Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and LaSalle crowded each other in Nick’s mind as he looked up the flat, brown plain of slow-moving water. ‘Anyhow, I’ve seen the Mississippi,’ he thought happily to himself.” A force of nature against a man-made structure, an author, his living characters, a French explorer “crowd” Nick’s mind—history and nature and myth and literature. Nick has one of those highly satisfying moments that Hemingway occasionally gave him: “‘Anyhow, I’ve seen the Mississippi,’ he thought.” The moment was so ecstatic that Hemingway stopped writing with that sentence. He didn’t give us a story, but the fragment satisfactorily catches a special moment that many Americans have experienced, me included, upon crossing the great river.

For Americans who cross that river east to west, there are usually consequences, often great consequences. Sometimes lives are changed unalterably. And many a Western story describes such transformation. Think about the easterner of Crane’s “The Blue Hotel.” The West has challenged his notion of himself, and he knows that he failed the test. His view of human nature will be ever dark: “Johnnie was cheating. I saw him. I know it. And I refused to stand up and be a man.” The poor Swede of Crane’s story was also a newcomer to the West, so caught up by his own stereotypes of the West that he ensured his own death. Though strangers sometimes meet violent ends, writers have also enjoyed describing positive transformations. We think of the narrator of Owen Wister’s The Virginian and of Molly Stark Wood.

Going west makes a difference not only in literature, but in life. Theodore Roosevelt, Owen Wister, Zane Grey, Jack Schaefer, Willa Cather, Mary Hallock Foote, and a host of others provide ready examples. Of course, the Western Literature Association itself has its own history of consequences of eastern visits to the West. You will be interested in one of the most recent. Last year, Doris Betts of North Carolina gave the keynote address at WLA. Her novel Heading West described consequences of an unscheduled visit west by Nancy Finch, a librarian from North Carolina: Nancy had been kidnapped. At WLA, southerner Betts discussed her use of Western themes in that novel and reflected on the influence of Western writing on her. But while she was in Reno, Betts was listening and observing—as writers do. When Thomas Wolfe had visited Reno some fifty years earlier, he had been fascinated with the gaudiness of the city’s chief industry and all that surrounds it. Betts quickly got by that pleasure seeking and focused her inner eye elsewhere. She went on our Saturday outing, and it proved for her to be more than a tourist’s excursion. The country around Reno, especially Donner Lake and its surroundings, spoke to her. At WLA, Betts found the theme and setting for her next novel. She is now subscribing to the Sparks, Nevada, newspaper, suggesting that her novel won’t be a retelling of the Donner excursion. As Betts says, that has already been done, by Vardis Fisher and others, all of which she has been busily reading. But the Donner story will be reflected in her theme.

A graduate student when I first crossed the Mississippi, I was about to meet dimensions of the West I hadn’t before considered. A couple of years later in a seminar, I became acquainted with the work of Vardis Fisher. The rest is history. Through his work, I was often in imagination west of the Mississippi. The next physical trip I took was, in fact, to Hagerman, Idaho, and the Fisher ranch. That was a weekend to remember! It personalized a correspondence with Fisher that had been under way, one that after Fisher’s death was extended to Opal Fisher.

I learned from Fisher about the founding of the Western Literature Association, though several meetings would pass before I attended my first one. Back East, a member of MLA and SAMLA, I was making my way, with much naiveté, in a new region on a modest salary at a university with limited travel budgets. Attending WLA seemed a remote and exotic possibility. I’ll be ever grateful to Wilber Stevens of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for his telephone call inviting me to be on a panel on the works of Vardis Fisher. “I’ll do it,” I said. Now I stress to graduate students: “You are your dissertation.”

The year of my first WLA meeting was 1975, the place Durango. My flight took me through Denver. In that airport, you knew you weren’t in the East or the Midwest. The clue was in the garb of all those Western Dudes—the cowboy boots and hats and the bolos. The women, however, could have been from Atlanta. As Melville might say, “Surely there is meaning in these things.” And I remember the Durango airport. That confirmed that I was in the West.

If the airport was small and remotely located, that quickly became unimportant. Western welcome really began there, for a group of WLA people were on the flight. Audrey Peterson was among them, and I was soon talking with someone who had not only heard of Vardis Fisher but knew my book on him! And so it continued in Durango, where at the convention hotel Jack Schaefer himself was one of the Western voices making me and others feel at home, part of a fellowship as well as a professional organization. Like other newcomers, I was meeting people who wished to see me again. The excitement of my first WLA meeting was such that already I was making plans to be present the next year in Bellingham. Helen Stauffer (Kearney is pronounced “Carney,” she taught me) was also among the first-timers that year. She will remember how we all hated to see the meeting end. To embellish would be tedious, but I am sure that many here could also testify to the special qualities of first WLA meetings, to the good fellowship and the bonds that were made.

A quick check of the membership directory will confirm how successful the band of western scholars who founded the association have been in attracting easterners to the organization. Many of us have served on the Executive Committee of the organization, and after I had been in WLA for a few years, some folks began to suggest that it might even be appropriate to have a president from the East, pointing out that the location of the meeting need not be tied to the school of the president. With the growing number of easterners, some began to suggest that the Association might even wish to meet one year in the East. Hints of manifest destiny! In 1980, WLA went to the great river itself for its meeting. In 1983, George Day carried us to Minneapolis and St. Paul—Big Ten country, where the ghosts are those of Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald, though Fred Manfred could have given us a tour of the upper regions of the Father of Waters.

When in 1989 members of the Executive Committee asked me to accept nomination as vice president of WLA, with presidency two years down the road, I thought it a good moment for me to say yes, to agree to the work that would, I hoped, say thank you to an organization that had been not only extraordinarily welcoming, but extraordinarily supportive of my work and had opened my eyes to new opportunities and new ways of seeing. Ann Ronald agreed to hold the 1992 meeting in Reno. Let me here renew my thanks to her and to her splendid colleagues at the University of Nevada-Reno for their partnership. I might have managed local arrangements by phone, or a quick visit, but I was glad that I didn’t have to do that.

My election was the occasion for renewed discussion of the possibility for holding an annual meeting east of the Mississippi. There might, after all, be some point to our meeting in Asheville, North Carolina, let’s say, Vardis Fisher had keenly identified with Thomas Wolfe because of the similarities of their mountain origins. Or we might have met in Boone, North Carolina, and had a major focus on re-imagining older notions of West.

When the Executive Committee talked about the possibility of some day meeting in the East, we agreed that my election was a good moment to go beyond cocktail-hour talk; to see what the membership as a whole might think about meeting in the East now and then. So we devised a questionnaire, and in bright purple so it couldn’t be missed, it went to the membership.

For several weeks, the purple forms kept my mailbox full and enlivened my reading. One hundred thirty-seven members responded. That is a pretty strong survey response, I think. The responses that came after the deadline were less impassioned than those that came in the initial flurry and were often more thoughtful. There was, to be sure, a good deal of passion from the most eager respondents. For some members, going east of the Mississippi for WLA would approach something like blasphemy; others would be extremely reluctant to go in that direction—for any purpose—I gathered. When their time comes, they want to die in the West—and with their boots on.

Noting the increasing percentage of members who live in the East and suggesting that holding some conference meetings in the East might equalize the burden of the greater travel expenses easterners face, the questionnaire asked members to agree or disagree with this statement: “WLA conferences should be held ONLY in the region of North America WEST of the Mississippi River (or its average longitude).” The form provided space for comments. Fifty-seven members agreed with the statement; seventy-six members disagreed. Four members (hating to be bound by statements with only) did not check but explained; they would fit in the disagree column. So count the vote 76 for policy that might permit an occasional meeting in the East and 57 against such policy. That’s a bigger margin than President Clinton got on his budget, but it is hardly a pressing mandate for change. Certainly it did not seem to me strong enough to recommend that the Executive Committee consider a policy for meeting in the East every fourth year, as some recommend. Most easterners like coming west very regularly, though they tend to approve the notion that it might be desirable for WLA to meet in the East, at least occasionally. Some Westerners eloquently argued the same position. The Chaucer Society, as one of you noted, does not meet only in England. Likewise, Western literature is not just for the West. Nor are all who write it western by every standard.

There are, of course, practical considerations in these matters. An advisory vote does not chart a course, as a national budget vote might. WLA does, after all, want a good attendance at its meetings. So does SAMLA, which prides itself on being the largest of the regional MLAs. SAMLA has its best attendance when the meeting is in Atlanta; so we meet there most often, currently in alternate years. Washington, DC, does well for SAMLA, too. But a Florida site will cut down on attendance. It’s too far for too many people. Members in the Upper South tend to stay away. But SAMLA continues to experiment. Next year SAMLA meets in Baltimore, and probably Florida will get another chance in some distant year. Even now, the SAMLA membership is voting on the proposition that all meetings be held in Atlanta.

The drama for MLA is similar. New York is a sure draw, but there was a falling-off, some of you know, when the meeting was held in Houston, and I make no prediction about Toronto. But come what may, MLA will survive! Count on it.

WLA will wish to be similarly pragmatic, but like MLA it should not be afraid to experiment. It is encouraging that October 1995 will find WLA meeting in Canada for the first time ever. We seem agreed, however, that the Association does not want to meet in big eastern or midwestern cities. It doesn’t want Cleveland, but it might like Boone. Some year, we might want to meet on the shores of Lake George in New York, one of the beautiful Wests of James Fenimore Cooper.

There would be no point in holding SAMLA’s meeting in St. Louis, or in holding the Rocky Mountain MLA’s meeting there. And although there are members in those organizations not from the defining regions, the organizations exist first to serve a region. The Western Literature Association, by contrast, is a national organization; it has increasingly become national in membership and in vision. Recognizing West as a fluid concept in American history, we study the literature of many Wests.

I draw back from any formulas or ratios for future meeting sites, but I hope we will continue to keep our options open. If we make a mistake some year, WLA will survive. The survey responses—with that majority favoring experimentation—strike me as worthy of inclusion in the WLA archives, and I submit them this day to Tom Lyon.

Whatever glitches or triumphs lie ahead, I am confident that we will continue to be a noticeably welcoming and inclusive organization. “Roll on, WLA, roll on!” This eastern dude salutes you and cheers you on to even greater achievement.

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The Dorys Grover Awards

Friday, June 12th, 2015

In 1966, Washington State University graduate student Dorys Grover joined the fledgling Western Literature Association and started attending its conferences. From her books on WLA’s first Distinguished Achievement Award recipient, Vardis Fisher, to her work on Hemingway and Graves, Professor Grover helped to develop the field of western American literary studies. After teaching for over two decades at East Texas State University, Professor Grover retired in 1993, splitting her time between Texas and Pendleton, Oregon, where she grew up.

One of her doctoral students, Joyce Kinkead, Professor of English at Utah State University, has created the Dorys Grover Award in recognition of her mentor’s dedication to both western American literature and to graduate students. Now in its fourth year, the Dorys Grover Award, in the amount of $200 cash and a banquet ticket, will be given to two graduate students presenting at this year’s annual conference whose papers contribute to our critical understandings of region, place, and space in western American literatures.

Creative work is not considered for the Grover Awards.

Please submit an abstract by the proposal deadline. Once your proposal has been accepted, submit the complete, conference-length paper (not exceeding 15 pages) with a cover letter indicating that you wish to be considered for the Grover Award to both of our presidents: Emily Lutenski and Michael Johnson. The deadline for the completed paper is August 15.

You may submit the same paper for the Taylor Award, if you wish. Award recipients are expected to attend the banquet, where they will receive the award, and to send a letter with the delivered paper to Dorys Grover AFTER the conference.

Note: To be eligible for this award, you must be registered as a graduate student at the time of the conference. And the award can only be received once. 


The Dorys Grover Award Recipients

YearRecipient
2017April Anson
2017Lisa Fink
2016Amy Gore
2016Michael Olausen
2015William V. Lombardi
2015Michael P. Taylor
2014Brittany Henry
2014Lisa Locascio
2014Ashley Reis

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Students Attending the WLA Conference

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Submitting a Conference Paper

WLA’s annual conference includes panel sessions where participants read scholarly or creative works related to the literature of western America  and culture. Each paper presentation is allowed approximately 20 minutes (which is about 10 pages of double-spaced text). If you need some instruction on how to write an abstract for a conference paper, check out the details provided here: Conference Abstracts. Please see conference details for the current WLA Conference. If you have any questions regarding these awards, contact the current WLA Presidents.


Award for Best Graduate Student Paper Submitted to the Conference

In 1984, the J. Golden Taylor Award for Best Essay Submitted to the WLA Conference by a Graduate Student was awarded for the very first time to Anne K. Phillips (now associate professor and assistant department head in English at Kansas State University). Named in honor of the first editor of Western American Literature, the Taylor Award is a prestigious award juried by a team of experts in the field and given annually to a work of scholarship submitted for the annual conference. Creative work is not considered for the Taylor; however, creative work may be submitted to the association’s Manfred Prize, and graduate student participants have been successful in winning that in the past (see Manfred Award). To be eligible for the Taylor award, please submit a conference paper proposal by proposal deadline and the complete paper of no more than 15 pages (if your proposal is accepted) in August, asking to be considered for the award.

More information on the submission process and precise deadlines can be found on the awards page.

Note: The award can only be received once.

A few Taylor alumni at the 2009 Conference in Spearfish, SD: Front row: Joshuah O’Brien (2009), Cheryll Glotfelty (1987) [initiator and former editor of the the WLA Syllabus Exchange], Matthew Lavin (2008) [co-editor of the WLA Syllabus Exchange project] Back row: Matt Burkhart (2003) [grad student rep, 2003-05; EC member 2016-19], Nancy Cook (1988) [present WLA Treasurer & 2011 WLA President], Anne Kaufman (1998) [2014 WLA Co-President], Evelyn Funda (1993) [former WAL Book Review Editor]


The Dorys Grover Awards

In 1966, Washington State University graduate student Dorys Grover joined the fledgling Western Literature Association and started attending its conferences. From her books on WLA’s first Distinguished Achievement Award recipient Vardis Fisher to her work on Hemingway and Graves, Professor Grover helped to develop the field of western American literary studies. After teaching for over two decades at East Texas State University, Professor Grover retired in 1993.

One of her doctoral students, Joyce Kinkead, Professor of English at Utah State University, has created the Dorys Grover Award in recognition of her mentor’s dedication to both western American literature and to graduate students. The Dorys Grover Award, in the amount of $200 each, will be given to two graduate students presenting at this year’s annual conference whose papers contribute to our critical understandings of region, place, and space in western American literatures

Creative work is not considered for the Grover Awards.

Please find specifics on submission and deadlines on the awards page.

You may submit your paper to both the Taylor and the Grover Awards (as long as it fits the criteria for the Grover Awards).

Note: The award can only be received once. 


The Louis Owens Awards for Graduate Student Presenters

The WLA honors the great writer and scholar Louis Owens for his contributions to western American and American Indian literary studies and for his unfailing generosity as a colleague, teacher, and mentor. The goal of the Louis Owens Awards is to build for the future of the Western Literature Association by modeling Owens’ own support and encouragement of diverse graduate student engagement in western literature and culture studies. The Owens Awards are intended to foster ever-greater diversity within the WLA membership, to help broaden the field of western American literary studies, and to recognize both graduate student scholarship and financial need.

For current information on how to apply, please check here.

Please forward the information to any graduate student who may be eligible to apply.

***

Meet our Owens Recipient from 2011: Johannes Fehrle

I came to my first WLA conference as a graduate student in 2010. I was working on a Ph.D. dissertation on revisionist Westerns in Candian and U.S. American literature at Freiburg University in Southern Germany and found myself pretty much in isolation from other scholars working on western American literature and culture. At this point, I had given papers in colloquia and at Ph.D. conferences, but the WLA Conference was the first “real” conference I submitted a paper to. In retrospect, I have to say I could not have chosen a better conference or wished for a more welcoming, interested and supportive group of scholars and colleagues. Since that first conference, my ties and gratefulness to the WLA have only deepened. I was lucky enough to receive the Owens Award in 2011, which allowed me to return. The contacts and friends I made at these conferences have benefitted me immensely: I received valuable feedback for my dissertation because I got to test new ideas by presenting early versions of my dissertation chapters at the conference. My talks have also led to publications with other members.

Now that I am a bit more firmly situated in the academic world (I completed my Ph.D. in 2012 and am for the time being gainfully employed at a university), I am glad to be able to give back to the organization. From 2013 to 216, I was a member of the Executive Council, which discusses the future of the organization. Telling my colleagues about my positive experience, I was able to recruit other German scholars to attend the conference. Their experience has been much the same as mine: they benefitted greatly in their research and were awed by the openness of the community at the conference. Even though I travel farther than most, like many other attendees, I set aside time and money to travel to the WLA Conference each year, and I am glad to say I have yet to miss one.

—Johannes Fehrle, University of Mannheim (2015)


Professionalization Panels

In 2007, Grad Rep Angela Waldie organized WLA’s first annual Graduate Student Professionalization Panel, a roundtable panel session in which fellow graduate students and experienced faculty members give brief remarks on career-related issues, and then the session is opened up for discussion among all those attending. Since then, we have sometimes had two Grad Student Professionalization Panels. Past professionalization panels have discussed why graduate students should aim to publish and ways they can do just that, how to maximize your time and effort when writing a thesis or dissertation, ways to conquer the first-time teacher jitters, transitioning from an MA program to a PhD program, and what to expect at your thesis or dissertation defense. To request a topic for the panel to cover, email your graduate student representatives, Rachel Bolten and Jes Lopez.


 

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Submission Information

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

WLA Conference 2015

Co-hosted by David Fenimore, University of Nevada, Reno,
and Susan Bernardin, SUNY Oneonta

October 14-17, 2015

THEME: “Visual Culture of the Urban West”

Submission Information:

In addition to proposals on any aspects of the literature and culture of the North American West, we especially encourage innovative proposals on the following:

– Visual culture, film, performance
– Environmental art, politics, justice, literatures
– Indigenous Wests, writers, filmmakers, artists
– Basque-American writers
– Latino/a Studies in Western places
– Twain and Tahoe
– Gendered spaces in the West
– Emigrant and mining narratives
– The recreational West: tourism, mountaineering, river-running

All participants must be members of the Western Literature Association. 

Proposals for panels and roundtable discussions should include an abstract for each paper or presentation.  Proposal deadline: June 15, 2015.  To submit presentations, go to https://www.conftool.pro/wla-conference-2015. You will be asked to create an account with user name and password, after which you may upload and edit your submission(s) at any time prior to the deadline. (User accounts from previous conferences were not carried over, so please take a minute to create a new account.)
Contact us with questions about the conference at WLAConference2015@westernlit.org.

DEADLINE: June 15, 2015.



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WLA Conference 2020

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

55th WLA Conference

Theme: The Graphic West

October 21-24, 2020

Location: the San Diego Hilton Del Mar, a beautiful coastal location one mile from the beach!


WLA Co-Presidents for 2020 will be Dr. Rebecca Lush, California State University San Marcos, and Dr. Kerry Fine, Arizona State University.   

Rebecca Lush

Rebecca Lush

Kerry Fine

Kerry Fine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


More information to come as it becomes available.


 

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WLA Conference 2018

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

THEME:

Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States


The WLA Conference 2018 will be hosted by Dr. Emily Lutenski, St. Louis University, and Dr. Michael K. Johnson, University of Maine, Farmington

The conference will be held in St. Louis, MO, Oct. 24 – 27, 2018.
Venue: Chase Park Plaza Hotel.

Emily Lutenski

Emily Lutenski

 

 

Michael K. Johnson

Michael K. Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Registration for the 2018
Western Literature Association
conference on
Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States 
is now open!

 

Click the blue button below to register at the ConfTool site.
Register at ConfTool Now
The conference registration deadline is September 24. Late fees ($25 for registration and $5 for meals) will apply after that date.
The Conference Theme

Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States

St. Louis’s Old Courthouse, where Dred Scott initiated his effort to sue for his freedom, is part of the Gateway Arch National Park. The Gateway Arch itself was built as a monument to “men who made possible the territorial expansion of the United States, particularly President Jefferson . . . the great explorers, Lewis and Clark, and the hardy hunters, trappers, frontiersmen and pioneers who contributed to the . . . development of these United States.”

This site, its representations, and the silences they engender, serve as a potent reminder of the intricately linked histories of U.S. imperialism and enslavement. Our conference theme “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States,” is derived from such confluences.

This year’s program offers an incredibly exciting array of contributions by both critics and creative writers, many interrogating the nexus of race and region, indigenous geographies, feminist critical regionalisms, and much more.

If you are presenting, you can search the program by your name in order to see when your paper has been scheduled. You will also see if you have been tentatively assigned to chair a session. As you peruse the program, if you see a panel that has not yet been assigned a chair and you would like to volunteer, please e-mail the conference organizers at wlaconference2018@westernlit.orgto let us know. We will do our best to accommodate these requests!

The Conference Site

The Chase Park Plaza Hotel

The 2018 conference will be held at the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel, constructed in 1922 and located in the city’s Central West End neighborhood, which has been home to some of the St. Louis’s most famous writers, like T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin, and William S. Burroughs.

Today, it is a walkable, vibrant neighborhood teeming with restaurants and shops like the independent Left Bank Books. It is adjacent to the 1,300-acre Forest Park, the site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and today the St. Louis Art Museum and Missouri History Museum.

Click the blue button below to make your hotel reservations.
The cutoff date for conference rate reservations is October 3.

Make Reservations at the Chase Park Plaza Now
Conference Travel

Discounts and Ground Transportation

United Airlines will offer travel discounts to conference attendees. Visit www.united.com/meetingtravel and enter the discount code ZEZH245642 in the offer code box–or call the United Meeting Reservation Desk at 1-800-426-1122. Booking fees are waived for meeting reservations. The discount is only available for travel dates between October 20 and October 31, 2018.

Once at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, the Chase Park Plaza is easily accessible by ground transportation. The shuttle service Go Best Express is offering discounts for WLA meeting attendees at the following link: https://gobestexpress.com/reservations?code=WLA2018.

Furthermore, the airport is serviced by taxis, ride share services Uber and Lyft, and the MetroLink light rail, which can take you from the airport to the Central West End station, a few blocks from the Chase.

Keynotes by Distinguished Award Winners

Percival Everett

Percival Everett counts among his many accolades two Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction. He is the author of around 30 books, many set in the American West.

No contemporary African American author has represented the black western experience in such extensive, nuanced, and complex ways. Everett will be a keynote speaker at the conference as winner of the 2018 WLA Distinguished Achievement Award in Creative Writing.

José E. Limón

José E. Limón is the Notre Dame Foundation Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and the Mody C. Boatright Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin.

His pathbreaking interdisciplinary work in literature and folklore has long asked pressing questions about the cultural politics of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and Greater Mexico. These resonate today perhaps more urgently than ever. Limón will be a keynote speaker at the conference as winner of the 2018 WLA Distinguished Achievement Award in Criticism.

More Special Events

Whose Streets? Screening and Discussion

Our opening night will feature a screening of Whose Streets?which documents the activism following the police shooting of Michael Brown, Jr. in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.

The screening will be followed by a discussion of these events, and of how contemporary racial politics are shaped by the histories of place.

Past President’s Lunch with Eugene B. Redmond

WLA Past-President Florence Amamoto will speak with East St. Louis poet, scholar, and activist Eugene B. Redmond.

An architect of the Black Arts Movement, Redmond’s poetry has often engaged with local borders and borderlands. A poem called “Carryover,” for example, proclaims, “I have been tattooed for life: / A thought called EAST SAINT LOUIS / Is etched on each Island of my Brain.”

Women’s Breakfast and #MeToo Dialogue

Self-identified women and gender nonconforming people are invited to meet over continental breakfast on Thursday, October 25 from 7:30-8:30 in order to establish friendships, coalitions, and mentoring relationships. Breakfast will be followed by a moderated discussion about how the MeToo movement has shaped classrooms, research, and lives.

Sign up for the breakfast with registration; the discussion is open to all conference participants from 8:30-9:00 am. 

A Reading for the Mound Builders

Organized by Professor Chadwick Allen of the University of Washington, “A Reading for the Mound Builders” will feature noted writers LeAnne Howe, Phillip Carroll Morgan, and Allison Hedge Coke.

This will dovetail with a planned excursion to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, the center of the largest pre-Columbian civilization north of Mexico.

The Digital Humanities and Western Literature

Sara L. Schwebel, Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, will speak about the possibilities of public humanities collaborations.

Her multimedia project in conjunction with Channel Islands National Park is organized around the children’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins, and equips K-12 teachers with tools to teach not only about the book, but also about the indigenous woman whose isolation due to Spanish colonial policies of reducción inspired it.

Awards Banquet

WLA Awards Banquet with Candice Ivory

The “Queen of Avant Soul,” Candice Ivory, will perform at the WLA awards banquet. Today she’s a St. Louisan, but Ms. Ivory has roots in Memphis, Tennessee, and is immersed in the jazz, blues, gospel, and soul traditions of both places. 

There is still time to submit work for some WLA awards to be honored at the banquet, including the J. Golden Taylor Award for best graduate student work submitted to the conference; the Dorys Grover Awards for outstanding graduate student papers on region, place, and space in western American literatures; the Frederick Manfred Award for best creative writing submission to the annual conference; and the Louis Owens Awards for graduate student travel to the conference.

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June 18, 2018

Dear WLA Members,

We hope summer is treating you well, and we look forward to welcoming you to St. Louis in October! To that end, we want this conference to be open to as many as possible, so we are extending the proposal deadline to July 1, 2018.

Understanding Our Place: Conference Proposals, Conference Theme, Conference Site

St. Louis’s Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was initiated. Along with the Gateway Arch and the Museum of Westward Expansion, the Old Courthouse comprises the Gateway Arch National Park (which, until 2018, was called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial). The linkage of these sites is a reminder of the intricate relations between U.S. imperialism and histories of enslavement.

Please submit proposals for individual papers and complete sessions to ConfTool. Remember that ConfTool accounts don’t carry over from year to year, so if you haven’t created a 2018 account, you must do so before you submit your proposal. Remember that we welcome critical and creative writing proposals on any aspect of literature and culture of the North American West—but we’re also happy to receive submissions that tie to this year’s conference theme: “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States.”

The Saint Louis Art Museum is housed in the only World’s Fair building—the “Palace of Fine Arts”—designed to be permanent.

The 2018 conference will be held at the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel, constructed in 1922, located in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. The Central West End was home to some of St. Louis’s most well-known writers: T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin, and William S. Burroughs, for example, all lived in the neighborhood. Today, it is a walkable area teeming with restaurants and shops, including the independent bookstore Left Bank Books. It is also adjacent to St. Louis’s 1,300-acre Forest Park, the site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (which popularized the ice cream cone and Dr. Pepper as it celebrated U.S. imperialism), and today the St. Louis Art Museum and the Missouri History Museum.

Chase Hotel (early 1920s), by W.C. Persons. Missouri Historical Society Collections.

As a site for jazz-age partygoing among well-heeled St. Louisans, our conference site was featured on the front page of the New York Times on January 2, 1923, when an article described a riot that ensued when federal agents sent to enforce prohibition law raided the “fashionable Hotel Chase” on New Year’s Eve. A “barrage of chairs, glassware, plates, knives and forks were hurled promiscuously,” the Times noted. “Women became hysterical” while the “rumpus was in swing” until the “officers retreated.” “One woman,” a police sergeant reported, “had me by the collar as we were leaving.”

We can’t promise that level of excitement, but we can promise an exceptional conference line-up that examines the literature and culture of the North American West from creative and challenging angles, asking critical questions about what constitutes region and role it has played in shaping culture, identity, and power.

Looking Forward to the Program: Special Events and Guests

These questions, of course, can be seen animating the work of our Distinguished Achievement Award winners in both creative writing and criticism:Percival Everett and José E. Limón.

Everett’s 2015 short story collection, Half an Inch of Water, based in Wyoming, “paints a vibrant picture of the West that layers itself subtly but assertively over the prevailing mythos of the lonely white cowboy,” according to a review in the Los Angeles Times.

Percival Everett counts among his many accolades two Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction. He is the author of around 30 books, many set in the American West. These include the parodic genre western God’s Country, as well as Suder, Walk Me to the Distance, Watershed, Wounded, Assumption, and the recent short story collection, Half an Inch of Water. No contemporary African American author has represented the black western experience in such extensive, nuanced, and complex ways. Everett is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

José E. Limón’s American Encounters requires we consider—perhaps now more urgently than ever—the following vision: “I wish to imagine the possibilities of a transformation of [the relationship between Greater Mexico and the United States], so that all children who live today along the Texas border can once again enjoy the waters of the Rio Grande—so that all of the children of Greater Mexico and the United States may play along the border and beyond, carrying their Mexico and their United States within them, . . . crossing this frontier at their pleasure, in equality, and in a peaceful and plentitudinous light of day” (José E. Limón, American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture [Boston: Beacon Press, 1999], 6).

José E. Limón is the Notre Dame Foundation Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and the Mody C. Boatright Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. His interdisciplinary work brings together literature, anthropology, and folklore in studies of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, Greater Mexico, and American regions and nations broadly conceived. Among his books are Dancing with the Devil: Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican-American South Texas, Mexican Ballads, Chicano Poems: History and Influence in Mexican American Social Poetry, American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture, and Américo Paredes: Culture and Critique. He is currently working on a book titled Neither Friends, Nor Strangers: Mexicans and Anglos in the Literary Making of Texas.

The plenaries by these Distinguished Achievement Award winners, while certainly the centerpiece of our conference, are not the only events of note.

Mural at Ponderosa Steakhouse, W. Florissant Ave., Ferguson, MO. 2014. 6’x8′. Image courtesy of COCA—Center of Creative Arts. Photo © Michael Kilfoy.

On our opening night, we will be screening and discussing the film Whose Streets?, which documents the activism that grew from the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, Jr., in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. This will be followed by a discussion moderated by Jonathan Smith, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at Saint Louis University and a scholar of African American literature.

During the conference, we will hear from Teresa McKenna, a foundational scholar in Chicana feminist studies and Associate Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California, who will read from her memoir.

We will learn about the possibilities of public humanities collaborations from Sara L. Schwebel, Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, who has collaborated with Channel Islands National Park on a digital humanities project for K-12 teaching organized around the children’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins and the indigenous woman, whose isolation due Spanish colonial policies of reducción and trade, inspired it. Professor Schwebel’s talk will lead nicely into presentations by the WLA/Charles Redd Center K-12 Teaching Award winners on Saturday.

East St. Louis poet, scholar, and activist Eugene B. Redmond will read from and speak about his work at the 2018 WLA Past-President’s lunch.

We will also engage local borders when we hear from poet, scholar, and activist Eugene B. Redmond during the Past-President’s lunch on Thursday. Dr. Redmond, along with fellow East St. Louisan Katherine Dunham and St. Louisan Maya Angelou, was an architect of the Black Arts Movement in the region. From his earliest poetry, Redmond has been a place-based poet. A poem titled “Carryover,” for example, which he read at East St. Louisan Miles Davis’s funeral, proclaims, “I have been tattooed for life: / A thought called EAST SAINT LOUIS / Is etched on each Island of my Brain.” “EAST SAINT LOUIS will rise!” It “Will rise from the muddy gutty Mississippi. / Will rise disguised as AFRICA” (in Gerald Early, “Ain’t But a Place”: An Anthology of African American Writings about St. Louis [St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1998], 481).

The ancestral Mississippian city of Cahokia is directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Monks Mound, pictured here, is the largest structure on the site and is the largest earthen mound north of Mexico. St. Louis was once nicknamed “Mound City,” but today only one mound within the city limits has escaped destruction: Sugarloaf Mound, which was purchased by the Osage Nation in 2009. The tribe hopes to preserve the mound and develop an interpretive center to teach St. Louisans about their city’s history from an indigenous perspective.

Candice Ivory, the “Queen of Avant Soul,” will perform at the 2018 WLA banquet.

And we’re delighted to be honoring the WLA’s 2018 award winners at the banquet on Friday night, where the “Queen of Avant Soul,” the fabulousCandice Ivory, will be joining us to perform. Today a St. Louisan, but with roots in Memphis, Tennessee, Ivory is immersed in the gospel, blues, jazz, and soul traditions of both places. We let her know that the WLA likes to dance!

In Closing, In Friendship, In Appreciation

If it wasn’t clear from the above, we are delighted to share this conference with you, our dear colleagues and friends, who have done so much to push our field in new and exciting directions. This is a preview of what’s in store—but there’s even more to come!

Most importantly, of course, is the tremendous compendium of critical and creative work on the North American West by you—the membership. So please do submit any remaining proposals by July 1, 2018. Thank you for all your contributions—we cannot do this conference, and we cannot do our work in western literature, in all its diversity, without you.

Best wishes,
Michael and Emily
Your 2018 WLA Co-Presidents


June 9, 2018

Dear WLA Members:

Just a quick reminder and a little bit of conference news.

Reminder: we are ready to start receiving proposals (deadline June 15) for the 2018 Western Literature Association conference, to be held October 24-27, in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

Bit of news: Remember to bring your dancing shoes to the conference, because Candice Ivory will be performing at the banquet: http://candiceivory.com/biography/

Below is the how-to-submit-a-proposal-through-Conftool instructions:

To submit a proposal, go to:  https://www.conftool.pro/wla-conference-2018/

Please keep in mind a few things:

  1. ConfTool is the only way to submit your proposal. Even if you’ve submitted through ConfTool before, you will need to create a new account for the 2018 conference, which you can do starting at the above URL. Once you have finished your submission, you will receive a notice from ConfTool indicating your submission success. If you don’t receive this email, check your spam folder and be sure to allow messages from ConfTool to get through to you, as some other important information (such as proposal acceptance notices) will like be sent through this system.
  2. You should submit an abstract for your paper only. For panels and roundtable, please remember that each member of the panel or roundtable must create an individual account and submission. The individual contributions on a panel are linked by the title of the panel, so for pre-formed panels, please enter the title of the panel followed by the title of the individual contribution. (Example: “Gateway Cities” / “St. Louis as Gateway West”)
  3. Shortly before the conference, the schedule will be available to download through the Conference4Me app (and will also be available online and at the conference in print form). A unique feature of the Conference4Me app is that it will allow you to download the schedule to your phone, and it will allow you to view the abstracts of papers accepted for the conference. We will send out instructions for downloading the Conference4Me app prior to the conference dates.
  4. The deadline for all submissions is June 15, 2018.
  5. Graduate students who wish to have their papers considered for the Taylor Award or the Grover Award, creative writers wishing to be considered for the Manfred Award, and those vying for the coveted Willa Pilla (awarded for most humorous), please note there are individual items to check in the topics list in order to alert us of your desire for consideration for those awards. Descriptions of these awards can be found on the WLA website: http://www.westernlit.org/western-literature-association-awards/
  6. Final copies of papers for the Taylor, Grover, and Manfred Awards are due (to Michael at michael.johnson@maine.edu) no later than August 15 so they can be sent to the appropriate Award Committees for consideration.
  7. Registration information will be sent out (via email and on the website) later, after acceptances have been made (probably in early July).
  8. Remember that all presenters MUST be a member of the Western Literature Association. You’ll have a chance to renew your membership with your registration. Or renew or join earlier via the WLA website: http://www.westernlit.org/membership/

Michael K. Johnson and Emily Lutenski

Your WLA Presidents 2018


 

May 18, 2018

Dear WLA Members:

Just a quick reminder that we are ready to start receiving proposals (deadline June 15) for the 2018 Western Literature Association conference, to be held October 24-27, in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

To submit a proposal, go to:  https://www.conftool.pro/wla-conference-2018/

Please keep in mind a few things:

  1. ConfTool is the only way to submit your proposal. Even if you’ve submitted through ConfTool before, you will need to create a new account for the 2018 conference, which you can do starting at the above URL. Once you have finished your submission, you will receive a notice from ConfTool indicating your submission success. If you don’t receive this email, check your spam folder and be sure to allow messages from ConfTool to get through to you, as some other important information (such as proposal acceptance notices) will like be sent through this system.
  2. You should submit an abstract for your paper only. For panels and roundtable, please remember that each member of the panel or roundtable must create an individual account and submission. The individual contributions on a panel are linked by the title of the panel, so for pre-formed panels, please enter the title of the panel followed by the title of the individual contribution. (Example: “Gateway Cities” / “St. Louis as Gateway West”)
  3. Shortly before the conference, the schedule will be available to download through the Conference4Me app (and will also be available online and at the conference in print form). A unique feature of the Conference4Me app is that it will allow you to download the schedule to your phone, and it will allow you to view the abstracts of papers accepted for the conference. We will send out instructions for downloading the Conference4Me app prior to the conference dates.
  4. The deadline for all submissions is June 15, 2018.
  5. Graduate students who wish to have their papers considered for the Taylor Award or the Grover Award, creative writers wishing to be considered for the Manfred Award, and those vying for the coveted Willa Pilla (awarded for most humorous), please note there are individual items to check in the topics list in order to alert us of your desire for consideration for those awards. Descriptions of these awards can be found on the WLA website: http://www.westernlit.org/western-literature-association-awards/
  6. Final copies of papers for the Taylor, Grover, and Manfred Awards are due (to Michael at michael.johnson@maine.edu) no later than August 15 so they can be sent to the appropriate Award Committees for consideration.
  7. Registration information will be sent out (via email and on the website) later, after acceptances have been made (probably in early July).
  8. Remember that all presenters MUST be a member of the Western Literature Association. You’ll have a chance to renew your membership with your registration. Or renew or join earlier via the WLA website: http://www.westernlit.org/membership/

Michael K. Johnson and Emily Lutenski

Your WLA Presidents 2018


April 16, 2018

Dear WLA Members:

Greetings from St. Louis! We are looking forward to getting your paper, panel, and roundtable proposals for the 2018 Western Literature Association conference, to be held October 24-27, in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

We are ready to start receiving your proposals!

To submit a proposal, go to:  https://www.conftool.pro/wla-conference-2018/

Please keep in mind a few things:

  1. ConfTool is the only way to submit your proposal. Even if you’ve submitted through ConfTool before, you will need to create a new account for the 2018 conference, which you can do starting at the above URL. Once you have finished your submission, you will receive a notice from ConfTool indicating your submission success. If you don’t receive this email, check your spam folder and be sure to allow messages from ConfTool to get through to you, as some other important information (such as proposal acceptance notices) will like be sent through this system.
  2. You should submit an abstract for your paper only. For panels and roundtable, please remember that each member of the panel or roundtable must create an individual account and submission. The individual contributions on a panel are linked by the title of the panel, so for pre-formed panels, please enter the title of the panel followed by the title of the individual contribution. (Example: “Gateway Cities” / “St. Louis as Gateway West”)
  3. Shortly before the conference, the schedule will be available to download through the Conference4Me app (and will also be available online and at the conference in print form). A unique feature of the Conference4Me app is that it will allow you to download the schedule to your phone, and it will allow you to view the abstracts of papers accepted for the conference. We will send out instructions for downloading the Conference4Me app prior to the conference dates.
  4. The deadline for all submissions is June 15, 2018.
  5. Graduate students who wish to have their papers considered for the Taylor Award or the Grover Award, creative writers wishing to be considered for the Manfred Award, and those vying for the coveted Willa Pilla (awarded for most humorous), please note there are individual items to check in the topics list in order to alert us of your desire for consideration for those awards. Descriptions of these awards can be found on the WLA website: http://www.westernlit.org/western-literature-association-awards/
  6. Final copies of papers for the Taylor, Grover, and Manfred Awards are due (to Michael at michael.johnson@maine.edu) no later than August 15 so they can be sent to the appropriate Award Committees for consideration.
  7. Registration information will be sent out (via email and on the website) later, after acceptances have been made (probably in early July).
  8. Remember that all presenters MUST be a member of the Western Literature Association. You’ll have a chance to renew your membership with your registration. Or renew or join earlier via the WLA website: http://www.westernlit.org/membership/

Michael K. Johnson and Emily Lutenski

Your WLA Presidents 2018


February 15, 2018

Dear WLA Members:

Greetings from the edge of the West (and the edge of the East), from the gateway city of St. Louis, Missouri, where we are busy with preparations for the Western Literature Association St. Louis 2018 Conference, to be held October 24-27 in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. The conference theme is “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States.”

Among the conference highlights that we wanted to mention, Distinguished Achievement Award winners Percival Everett (creative writing) and José E. Limón (criticism) will be present at the conference and will be reading from their work.

Percival Everett is a two-time winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards for Fiction, a recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction, and the author of around 30 books, including the parodic genre western God’s Country, as well as multiple books set in the American West, including Suder, Walk Me to the Distance, Watershed, Wounded, Assumption, and his recent short story collection, Half an Inch of Water. No other contemporary African American author has accomplished as extensive (and complex) a representation of African American western experience. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

José E. Limón is the Notre Dame Foundation Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and the Mody C. Boatright Professor of American Literature Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a distinguished scholar of Mexican American literature and culture in wide-ranging and interdisciplinary work that brings together the study of literature, anthropology, and folklore in studies of literature of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, Greater Mexico, and region and nation more broadly conceived. He is the author of four books, including Dancing with the Devil: Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican-American South Texas and Américo Paredes: Culture and Critique. He is currently working on a book titled Neither Friends, Nor Strangers: Mexicans and Anglos in the Literary Making of Texas.

We particularly look forward to proposals that engage the literary and critical work and legacies of our two Distinguished Achievement Award winners.

Our deadline for papers, panels, and other session ideas is June 15, 2018. Please see the original CFP and list of proposed themes we’d like to highlight below, but, as always, we welcome proposals on any aspect of the literature and culture of the North American West. 

Proposals should be submitted through the ConfTool link, which will be posted on this page once ConfTool has been set up to receive proposals.

Soon we will be posting a follow-up letter with more information on other conference activities (including possibilities for a Saturday excursion), as well as transportation and hotel information.

Stay tuned!

Michael K. Johnson and Emily Lutenski
Your WLA Presidents 2018


CALL FOR PAPERS

2018 Western Literature Association Conference

Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States

Still on Ponderosa ©Michael Kilfoy

Mural at Ponderosa Steakhouse, W. Florissant Ave., Ferguson, MO. 2014. 6’×8′.
Image courtesy of COCA—Center of Creative Arts. Photo ©Michael Kilfoy.

The 2018 annual conference of the Western Literature Association will take place October 24-27 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States” is derived from this location. This region, at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, has been urban for thousands of years: Cahokia, directly across the river from today’s St. Louis, housed the largest pre-Columbian civilization north of Mexico and was long a hub for trade, communication, and transportation throughout indigenous North America. Today it is well known for its impressive earthen mounds, which the Osage Nation, among other tribal groups, counts as an important ancestral site. Long before St. Louis was known as the “Gateway to the West,” it was nicknamed “Mound City.”

St. Louis would become a North American borderland, shaped by French, Spanish, and U.S. contact and conquest. With Missouri’s 1821 entry into the nation as a slave state, St. Louis became envisioned as a gateway to western freedom even while it maintained southern bondage. This position made it possible for hundreds of enslaved people, including Dred Scott, to attempt to sue for their freedom in St. Louis. During the Exoduster movement, St. Louis indeed became a gateway to freedom for many African Americans migrating away from postbellum southern oppression. An emblem of white flight and urban disinvestment in the 20th century, today St. Louis is home to newer immigrant communities and central to the Black Lives Matter movement. It continues to serve as a microcosm of U.S. racial histories and of both stubborn divisions and promising coalitions across lines of race, class, region, and nation. “Indigenous Hubs, Gateway Cities, Border States” is meant to evoke these confluences and crosscurrents.

Both Distinguished Achievement Award Winners, Percival Everett and José E. Limón, will be attending the conference, and each will give a reading.

We welcome proposals on any aspect of the literatures of the North American West, but especially encourage panels and papers that explore the following topics:

• St. Louis (or other western places) as Indigenous Hubs, Gateways, or Borderlands
• The African American West
• Jazz and Blues and the American West
• The Art and Literature of Black Lives Matter
• St. Louis Freedom Suits
• The Work of Distinguished Achievement Award Winner Percival Everett
• The Critical Legacy of Distinguished Achievement Award Winner José E. Limón

Proposals for panels and roundtable discussions should include an abstract for each paper or presentation. The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2018. Please submit questions to Michael K. Johnson or Emily Lutenski at WLAConference2018@westernlit.org.


For more information, check back periodically.

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Western Literature Association Presidents 1966 to Present

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

 

WLA leaders who have served as presidents of the organization and have hosted the annual conference.

Emily Lutenski—2018, St. Louis, MO

Michael K. Johnson

Michael K. Johnson—2018, St. Louis, MO

Florence Amamoto, 2017—Minneapolis, MN

Florence Amamoto—2017, Minneapolis, MN

Sue Maher—2017, Minneapolis, MN

 

Linda Karell, 2016— Montana State University

Linda Karell—2016, Big Sky, Montana

Susan Bernardin, 2015 Reno, Nevada

Susan Bernardin—2015, Reno, Nevada

David Fenimore, 2015 — Reno, Nevada

David Fenimore—2015, Reno, Nevada

Laurie Ricou, 2014 — Victoria, BC, Canada

Laurie Ricou—2014, Victoria, BC, Canada

Anne Kaufman—2014, Victoria, BC, Canada

Anne Kaufman—2014, Victoria, BC, Canada

Richard Hutson, 2013 — Berkeley, California

Richard Hutson—2013, Berkeley, California

 

Sara Spurgeon—2012, Lubbock, Texas

Sara Spurgeon—2012, Lubbock, Texas

Nancy Cook—2011, Missoula, Montana

Nancy Cook—2011, Missoula, Montana

Bonney MacDonald, 2011 — Missoula, MontanaBonney MacDonald, 2011 — Missoula, Montana

Gioia Woods, 2010 — Prescott, Arizona

Gioia Woods, 2010 — Prescott, Arizona

David Cremean, 2009 — Spearfish, South Dakota

David Cremean, 2009 — Spearfish, South Dakota

Karen Ramirez, 2008 — Boulder, Colorado

Karen Ramirez, 2008 — Boulder, Colorado

Nic Witschi, 2008 — Boulder, Colorado

Nic Witschi, 2008 — Boulder, Colorado

Ann Putnam, 2007 — Tacoma, Washington

Ann Putnam, 2007 — Tacoma, Washington

Tara Penry 2006 — Boise, Idaho

William Handley, 2005 — Los Angeles, California

William Handley, 2005 — Los Angeles, California

Susan Kollin, 2004 — Big Sky, MontanaSusan Kollin, 2004 — Big Sky, Montana Krista Comer, 2003 Houston, TexasKrista Comer, 2003 — Houston, Texas Judy Nolte Temple, 2002 — Tucson, ArizonaJudy Nolte Temple, 2002 — Tucson, Arizona  Susan Naramore Maher, 2001 — Omaha, NebraskaSusan Naramore Maher, 2001 — Omaha, Nebraska
Robert Murray Davis, 2000 — Norman, Oklahoma

Robert Murray Davis, 2000 — Norman, Oklahoma

Michael Kowalewski, 1999 — Sacramento, California

Michael Kowalewski, 1999 — Sacramento, California

Robert Thacker, 1998 — Banff, Alberta, Canada

Robert Thacker, 1998 — Banff, Alberta, Canada

Gary Scharnhorst, 1997 — Albuquerque, New MexicoGary Scharnhorst, 1997 — Albuquerque, New Mexico
Susanne K. George Bloomfield, 1996 — Lincoln, NebraskaSusanne K. George Bloomfield, 1996 — Lincoln, Nebraska Laurie Ricou, 1995 — Vancouver, British Columbia, CanadaLaurie Ricou, 1995 — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Stephen Tatum, 1994 — Salt Lake City, UtahStephen Tatum, 1994 — Salt Lake City, Utah  Diane Quantic, 1993 — Wichita, KansasDiane Quantic, 1993 — Wichita, Kansas
Joseph Flora, 1992 — Reno, Nevada

Joseph Flora, 1992 — Reno, Nevada

James Work, 1991 — Estes Park, Colorado

James Work, 1991 — Estes Park, Colorado

Lawrence Clayton, 1990 — Denton, TexasLawrence Clayton, 1990 — Denton, Texas Barbara Meldrum, 1989 — Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Barbara Meldrum, 1989 — Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Glen Love, 1988 — Eugene, OregonGlen Love, 1988 — Eugene, Oregon Susan J. Rosowski, 1987 — Lincoln, NebraskaSusan J. Rosowski, 1987 — Lincoln, Nebraska Tom Pilkington[pictured in the middle, receiving award], 1986 — Durango, ColoradoTom Pilkington[pictured in the middle, receiving award], 1986 — Durango, Colorado Gerald Haslam, 1985 — Fort Worth, TexasGerald Haslam, 1985 — Fort Worth, Texas
Ann Ronald, 1984 — Reno, NevadaAnn Ronald, 1984 — Reno, Nevada  George Day, 1983 — St. Paul, MinnesotaGeorge Day, 1983 — St. Paul, Minnesota Martin Bucco, 1982 — Denver, Colorado

Martin Bucco, 1982 — Denver, Colorado

James Maguire, 1981 — Boise, IdahoJames Maguire, 1981 — Boise, Idaho
Helen Stauffer, 1980 — St. Louis, MissouriHelen Stauffer, 1980 — St. Louis, Missouri Bernice Slote, 1980 — University of Nebraska, LincolnBernice Slote, 1980 — University of Nebraska, Lincoln (courtesy University of Nebraska, Lincoln Archives) Richard Etulain, 1979 — Albuquerque, New MexicoRichard Etulain, 1979 — Albuquerque, New Mexico Mary Washington, 1978 — Park City, UtahMary Washington, 1978 — Park City, Utah
Arthur Huseboe, 1977 — Sioux Falls, South DakotaArthur Huseboe, 1977 — Sioux Falls, South Dakota Lawrence L. Lee, 1976 — Bellingham, WashingtonLawrence L. Lee, 1976 — Bellingham, Washington Maynard Fox 1982Maynard Fox, 1975 —Durango, Colorado John S. Bullen, 1974 — Sonoma, CaliforniaJohn S. Bullen, 1974 — Sonoma, California
Max Westbrook, 1973 — Austin, TexasMax Westbrook, 1973 — Austin, Texas Thomas J. Lyon, 1972 — Jackson Hole, WyomingThomas J. Lyon, 1972 — Jackson Hole, Wyoming  

John R. Milton, 1971 — Red Cloud, NebraskaJohn R. Milton, 1971 — Red Cloud, Nebraska

Don D. Walker, 1970 — Sun Valley, IdahoDon D. Walker, 1970 — Sun Valley, Idaho
Morton L. Ross, 1969 — Provo, UtahMorton L. Ross, 1969 — Provo, Utah Jim L. Fife, 1968 — Colorado Springs, ColoradoJim L. Fife, 1968 — Colorado Springs, CO

Delbert Wylder, 1967 — Albuquerque, NM

Delbert Wylder, 1967 — Albuquerque, NM

C. L. Sonnichsen, 1966 — Salt Lake City, Utah

C. L. Sonnichsen, 1966 — Salt Lake City, Utah

 

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Past Presidents’ Addresses

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

PAST PRESIDENTS’ ADDRESSES

At every conference, the past president gives the Past President’s Address. Below you’ll find links to some of them:

1989—Glen Love, “Revaluing Nature: Toward an Ecological Criticism”
1992—James Work, “Who’s Afraid of the Virginian’s Wolf?”
1993—Joseph M. Flora, “An Eastern Dude Rides West—Again
1994—Diane Quantic, “Reimagining the West: A Consideration of the Discipline”
1996—Laurie Ricou, “Extra West”
1997—Susanne George Bloomfield, “Dancing with Our Skeletons: Some Reflections on Time”
1998—Gary Scharnhorst, “In Defense of Western Literary Biography”
1999—Robert Thacker, “Crossing Frontiers, Riding Point”
2001—Robert Murray Davis, “Part-Time Westerner”
2002—Susan Naramore Maher, “When East Meets West: A Tale of Sundry Adventures”
2003—Judy Nolte Temple, “Why in the World Study Diaries: Tales from the Road Less Traveled”
2006—William R. Handley, “An Anatomy of Feeling Western; or, The Good News about Estrangement”
2008—Ann Putnam, “Memory, Desire, and What’s ‘True at First Light’”
2009—Karen Ramirez and Nicolas Witschi, “Western Collaborations X: The Generative Power of Working Together”
2010—David Cremean, “Livin’ in These Badlands: Don’t Fence Me In—or Out”
2011—Gioia Woods, “Reinvent America and the World”
2013—Sara Spurgeon, “Incidentally Western”
2014—Richard Hutson, “Tom Sawyer and the Struggle for Recognition”
2015—17 Past Presidents recounted the WLA’s journey of where it has been and where it is going (no transcript available)
2016—Sacred and Profane West: A Conversation with Stephen Graham Jones, moderated by Susan Bernardin and David Fenimore (no transcript available)
2017—Learning from Legacies: A Conversation with Linda Karell and Kao Kalia Yang (no transcript available)

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PAST CONFERENCE PROGRAMS

Friday, January 1st, 2010

PAST CONFERENCE PROGRAMS

Below you’ll find conference programs from previous years. These are not the absolutely final copies, but they’re as close to final as they were posted at the time. So if you are looking for somebody who was on your panel or a particular paper you heard, this might be helpful. If you have any questions, though, try contacting the person who gave the paper, chaired the panel, etc. The webmaster in this case is not likely to be able to help. In other words, USE AT YOUR OWN RISK and keep any problems with these programs to yourself.

WLA Conference Program 1999 (Sacramento)

Conference Program 2004 (Big Sky, Montana)
Conference Program 2005 (Los Angeles, California) [Word file]
Conference Program 2006 (Boise, Idaho)
Conference Program 2007 (Tacoma, Washington) [Word fiile]
Conference Program 2008 (Boulder, Colorado)
Conference Program 2009 (Spearfish, South Dakota)
Conference Program 2010 (Prescott, Arizona)
Conference Program 2011 (Missoula, Montana)
Conference Program 2012 (Lubbock, Texas)
Conference Program 2013 (Berkeley, California)
Conference Program 2014 (Victoria, British Columbia)
Conference Program 2015 (Reno, Nevada)
Conference Program 2016 (Big Sky, Montana)—final copy, including corrections
Conference Program 2017 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)—final copy, including corrections

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WLA Conference 2019

Friday, June 18th, 2010

54th WLA Conference

Estes Park, Colorado
Sept. 18-21, 2019

THEME: Not Cloudy All Day: Climates of Change in the American West


Alex HuntThe 2019 Conference will be co-hosted by Professors  Alex Hunt (West Texas A&M) and SueEllen Campbell (Colorado State University). 

SueEllen Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Not Cloudy All Day: Climates of Change in the American West

The 2019 annual conference of the Western Literature Association will take place September 18-21 at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. 

Our location in the high Colorado mountains at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park is a majestic landscape claimed by Arapaho and Ute tribes, US expansionists, British nobility, millions of visitors (44.4 million in 2017), and the federal government, notably the National Park Service. It is a fitting place to think about changes sweeping the West, especially the material and cultural effects of climate change (and the often unrecognized importance of weather and climate) and changing attitudes and policies concerning public lands.

Our Distinguished Achievement Award winner is Leslie Marmon Silko. We will be joined by a number of excellent Colorado authors and activists.

We welcome proposals on any aspect of the literatures (broadly conceived) of the North American West. We especially encourage panels, papers, and “structured conversations”* that explore the following topics as they apply to these literatures:

• The likely effects of a changing climate (and weather) on the lands, peoples, and cultures of the American West

• Defeat, resilience, denial, unrealistic and realistic hope, and other emotional literary and cultural responses to changes in climate (e.g., in Dust Bowl literatures)—or to other basic shifts in material realities

• Public lands, especially those maintained by the National Park System

• Environmental history and its relations to literature and other cultural expressions

• The varying abilities of different genres to deal with such topics: YA fiction, speculative vs realistic fiction, experimental eco-poetics/poetry vs traditional poetic forms, film, social media, visual arts, feature journalism, personal nonfiction literature, and so on

• The work of Distinguished Achievement Award Winner Leslie Marmon Silko

Proposals for panels and roundtable discussions should include an abstract for each paper or presentation. *For the experimental “structured conversations,” which we envision as collaborative discussions driven by one-page “prompts” by 3-4 participants on a focused topic directly related to the conference theme, please submit a short description of your topic and the primary questions/ideas to be posed/proposed by your leading participants.

Please note: Due to the earlier-than-usual conference date, the deadline for submissions is May 20, 2019. Please submit questions to Alex Hunt or SueEllen Campbell at wlaconference2019@westernlit.org.

Check back for updates!


 

 

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WLA Conference 2011 Registration

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

46th Annual Western Literature Association Conference
Oct. 5-Oct. 8, 2011
Missoula, MT

ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM

First Name:
Last Name:
Title:
Affiliation:
Mailing Address:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Country:
Email:
Home/Cell Phone:
Work Phone:
Check if graduate student in October 2011 Check if undergraduate student in October 2011

2011 CONFERENCE REGISTRATION FEES

(Please note: You must be a member of the WLA at THE TIME OF THE CONFERENCE
to present a paper at the conference. See information on WLA Annual Membership Dues below.)

WLA member

$120
Retired member

$100
Student member

$100
Non-member, not presenting

$110
Guest of member, not presenting *

$50
Whose guest are you?
Name of WLA member if registering as “guest of member”:


Registration

* Guest rate is for non-presenting spouses or partners who accompany a registered WLA member, retired member, or student member and wish to attend conference sessions, receptions, and/or meals. Partners who do not plan to attend sessions, receptions, or meals need not register. Two non-members traveling together must each pay the full non-member rate. Two presenters traveling together must each pay the appropriate member rate. Registered partners will receive a name badge and other registration materials. Please use a separate form for each individual.

2011 WLA MEMBERSHIP DUES
(includes subscription to Western American Literature)

Presenters and session chairs must be WLA members AT THE TIME OF THE CONFERENCE. If you have questions regarding your membership status, please contact the WAL office.

CATEGORY MAILING ADDRESSES IN THE US ADDRESSES IN CANADA + MEXICO ALL OTHER DESTINATIONS
Regular member $35.00 $50.00 $60.00
Student/Retired $30.00 $45.00 $55.00
Couples $40.00 $55.00 $65.00
Sponsor $75.00 $75.00 $75.00
Patron $100.00 $100.00 $100.00
None. My membership is current through 10/2011. $0
Membership

MEALS

Thur, Oct 6, 12:15–2:00 pm: Past Presidents’ Address Luncheon
(Everyone invited!)
$25
Choose one:
Meat
Vegetarian
Fri, Oct 7, 7:00-8:00 am: Past Presidents’ Breakfast
(Past Presidents only!)
$15
Fri, Oct 7, 12:15–2:00 pm: Graduate Students’ Luncheon
$15
Fri, Oct 7, 6:30 pm: Banquet (includes awards ceremony and the traditional WLA dance)
$45
Choose one: (a) braised short ribs
(b) balsamic chicken
(c) Northwestern rainbow trout
(d) seasonal vegetarian entrée
Meals

OWENS AWARD CONTRIBUTION

Please consider supporting the Louis Owens Awards, WLA’s competitive travel scholarships for graduate students who contribute to the diversity of the WLA conference.

See the award description for more information.

I would like to donate the following amount:

Donate $10

Donate $20

Clear Amount
Owens Contribution

SATURDAY ACTIVITIES

Missoula has numerous hiking and biking trails available for you to enjoy from our beautiful downtown location within a half-block of the Clark Fork River. Maps and a local “What to do in Missoula” Guide will be issued to you at the registration desk. You can contact the following providers below for horseback riding and fishing trip outings:

For horseback riding, please contact Suzanne at www.dunrovinranchmontana.com.
For guided fishing trips and fly-casting lessons, contact Russell via email. (Missoulian Angler will offer $100 off a fully guided trip if you mention the WLA Conference.)

For planning purposes, please indicate your preference for the following:

Horseback Riding
Guided Fishing Trip
Fly-Casting Group Lesson
Rattlesnake Wilderness Hike (gentle)
Rattlesnake Wilderness Hike (strenuous)

PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY

A fundraising cocktail party at Nancy Cook’s home, including drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Transportation will be arranged. Money will go to WLA endowments. If you’d like to participate, please donate a minimum of $55.00. If you are contributing to the Presidential Library, please add the amount you would like to donate, then hit “update total”.

I would like to donate the following amount:
GRAND TOTAL

If you are unable to attend the conference once you have registered, please send an e-mail to nancy.cook@mso.umt.edu.

All cancellations are subject to a processing fee of 20% of your total, if the cancellation is received before September 20. After that date, no refunds can be issued.


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  • Western Literature Association (WLA)

    Founded in 1965, the Western Literature Association (WLA) is a non-profit, scholarly association that promotes the study of the diverse literature and cultures of the North American West, past and present.

  • Western American Literature (WAL)

    (The Journal)

    Published by the Western Literature Association, Western American Literature is the leading journal in western American literary studies.