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    Associate Professor, English Department, University of Nevada Reno

WLA Conference 2015

The WLA Conference 2015 will be hosted by
David Fenimore, University of Nevada, Reno,
and Susan Bernardin, SUNY Oneonta


David Fenimore

Susan Bernardin

The 50th annual conference of the Western Literature Association will take place October 14-17 at Harrah’s Reno. We will be meeting 35 miles from beautiful North Lake Tahoe, on the west-northwestern edge of the Great Basin, at the intersection of Washoe and Paiute homelands, where the transcontinental emigrant trail and railroad line meet the mighty Sierra Nevada.

Harrah’s has contracted with us for the lowest room rates in recent WAL history ($99 Fri-Sat; $59 Sun-Thurs) and is located dead center (literally, on Center Street) in Old Reno, walking distance from the Truckee River and many cultural and recreational attractions.

October is off-season in these parts and promises discounted transport & lodging rates as well as uncrowded roads, trails, and waterways. Yet we are almost guaranteed sunny warm days and cool, clear, probably frosty nights in which to contemplate and interact with the region’s incredible natural beauty, thriving tribal cultures, preserved traces of historic settlements and extractive industries,  and all-year outdoor recreation. All this is conveniently juxtaposed, for our purposes, with casino-hotels, golf courses, ski resorts, trophy homes, gated communities, workforce housing, T-shirt shops, and sprawling WUI (wildland-urban interface) development. The bears at this time will be preparing for their long winter’s naps and are a common autumn sight in my neighborhood.

Preliminary discussions among members of our steering committee anticipate, among other possibilities, panels and plenary events focusing on tourism, mountaineering and river-running literature, the New Western suburbs, mining and emigration narratives, visual culture, and environmental politics, art & photography.

We have agreements from Willy Vlautin (UNR alumnus and author of the novels Motel Life, Northline, and most recently Lean on Pete) for a reading and perhaps a performance with his Portland-based band Richmond Fontaine, from LA-based Native performer and comics artist Arigon Starr , from William Fox (The Void, The Grid, The Sign; In the Desert of Desire; Playa Works), and photographer Peter Goin (Field Guide to California Agriculture; Nevada Rock Art; Nuclear Landscapes). We are discussing a retrospective on the late Basque-American writer Robert Laxalt (Sweet Promised Land, The Basque Hotel). Negotiations continue with these and other exciting and provocative scholars and artists.

We will confer two Distinguished Achievement Awards: one to the late Basque-American novelist Robert Laxalt, and the other to San Francisco–based writer and activist Rebecca Solnit (Savage Dreams), who has promised to join us.

The WLA Legacy Project and Conversations on Critical Genealogies and Keywords reflect on our organization’s half-century of scholarship, while plenaries, roundtables, and panels on visual culture and performative arts; on gender, the environment, and diverse western spaces; on Native, Basque, and Latino Studies direct us to the continuing growth of our field as we look towards the next 50 years.

Some plenaries and other sessions will take place in partnership with, and/or on the premises of, the University of Nevada, Reno; Nevada Humanities, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Nevada Museum of Art.

In addition, we anticipate with mingled trepidation and delight the prospect of our 2015 Readers Theater production: Judy Temple’s all-you-can-eat Donner Party dinner theater, a tongue-in-cheek show you can really sink your teeth into.

More details as they trickle forth,

David and Susan


Call for papers

The 50th annual conference of the Western Literature Association, hosted by David Fenimore and Susan Bernardin, will take place October 14–17, 2015, at Harrah’s Reno. We will be meeting 35 road miles from beautiful Lake Tahoe, on the northwestern edge of the Great Basin, at the intersection of Washoe and Paiute homelands, where the transcontinental emigrant trail and railroad line meet the mighty Sierra Nevada.

Riding the edge of old and new, of indigeneity and transience, Reno corrals Native, Hispanic, Basque, cowboy, and casino cultures even as it looks forward to the new high-tech economies and recreational lifestyles of the information age. It is an apt location for our 50th anniversary, an occasion to consider our histories, but more so, the next 50 years of western American literary and cultural studies. In that spirit, our planning committee has invited a diverse group of featured presenters, including Rebecca Solnit, Willy Vlautin, William Fox, Arigon Starr, Native filmmakers, and Basque writers and performers.

In addition to proposals on any aspects of literature about 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
  • Twain and Tahoe
  • Basque-American writers, including Robert Laxalt
  • Latino/a Studies in Western Places
  • Emigrant and mining narratives
  • Tourism, mountaineering, river-running

Proposals for panels and roundtable discussions should include an abstract for each paper or presentation.
Deadline: June 15, 2015. 

Please direct your questions to WLAConference2015@westernlit.org.


Download the pdf version of this call for papers here here.

For more information, check back periodically.

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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.

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  • Western American Literature (WAL)

    (The Journal)

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

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