Students Attending the WLA Conference

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).

Travel stipends are available for graduate students presenting papers at the Western Literature Association conference. Click here to download the application. As well, see below for information about the J. Golden Taylor and Louis Owens Awards for graduate students. [Please note: If you are awarded a stipend, you will be expected to attend most of the conference.]

If you need some instruction on how to write an abstract for a conference paper, check out the details provided 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 June 22 (note new date) and a complete paper of no more than 15 pages (if your proposal is accepted) by August 15, to WLAconference14@gmail.com, asking to be considered for the award.

Note: the award can only be received once.

For information on writing an abstract, see submission information.


Former Taylor Recipients

A few Taylor alumni at the 2009 Conference in Spearfish, SD:
Front row: Joshuah O’Brien (2009), Cheryll Glotfelty (1987), Matthew Lavin (2008)
Back row: Matt Burkhart (2003), Nancy Cook (1988), Anne Kaufman (1998), Evelyn Funda (1993)

2013: Heather Dundas, University of Southern California
2012: Sylvan Goldberg, Stanford University
2011: Christopher Muniz, University of Southern California
2010: Alex Young, University of Southern California
2009: Joshuah O’Brien, West Texas A&M
2008: Matthew J. Lavin, University of Iowa
2007: Patrick Gleason, University of California, San Diego
2006: Angela Waldie, University of Calgary
2005: John Gamber, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
2004: Ianina Arnold, University of Idaho
2003: Matt Burkhart, University of Arizona
2002: Laurie Clements Lambeth, University of Houston
2001: Virginia Kennedy, Montclair State University
2000: Jenny Emery Davidson, University of Utah
1999: Jenny Emery Davidson
1998: Anne L. Kaufman
1997: Jonathan Pitts, SUNY-Buffalo
1996: Wes Mantooth
1995: Phil Coleman-Hull
1994: David Mazel
1993: Evelyn I. Funda, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln
1989: Nat Lewis
1988: Nancy Cook, SUNY-Buffalo
1987: Cheryll Burgess Glotfelty, Cornell University
1986: Linda A. Hughson-Ross
1984: Anne K. Phillips


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.

The Owens Award consists of a combination of a cash award, free or reduced accommodation at the conference hotel, and a ticket to the conference banquet.

To apply, please submit the following materials by Sept. 1 to Sabine Barcatta:

1. A completed application form.

2. A copy of your WLA conference proposal,

3. A writing sample of 8-10 pages, double-spaced. This does not have to be on the same topic as the conference proposal but should reflect your work in the field of western American literary and cultural studies.

Download the application form.

Note: the award can only be received once.

For information on writing an abstract, see submission information. All other questions in regards to the Owens Award/s should be directed to Prof. Victoria Lamont.


Professionalization Panel

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. 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 representatives,  William Lombardi and Jaquelin Pelzer.


Additional Professionalization Information

For additional advice on a variety of professionalization issues, check out In Medias Res, an online newsletter for graduate students, edited by WLA member Evelyn Funda, Associate Professor of English at Utah State University. The newsletter is written by and for graduate students about their concerns regarding their professional lives. Topics in previous issues include advice on attending conferences (why, how many, and how), getting and benefiting from an internship, preparing a successful PhD application, guidelines for writing a CV, and a reprint of a wonderful essay by WLA’s Distinguished Achievement Award winner Professor Patricia Limerick, entitled “Dancing with Professors: The Trouble with Academic Prose.”

  • 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.

    Conference Proposals

  • Western American Literature (WAL)

    (The Journal)

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

    Article Submissions