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    I can't overstate the importance of WLA to my career. I felt so welcomed as a graduate student that WLA has become my intellectual home.
    Nancy Cook
    Associate Professor, English Department, University of Montana, Missoula

WLA Conference 2016

51st WLA Conference
September 21-September 24, 2016
Big Sky, Montana

WLA President for  2016 will be Prof. Linda Karell, Montana State University. All questions regarding the conference should be addressed to her.

Linda Karell (photo credit: Nathan Norby)

Linda Karell (photo credit: Nathan Norby)

We are ready to receive your proposals. Submit your abstracts here:

And don’t forget that the deadline is a little earlier this year: June 1, 2016


Update from the President, 3-19-16:

If you still need convincing why you should submit an abstract this year, here’s a quick rundown of a few of the many pleasures of WLA Big Sky 2016:
• Our opening event will be the screening of Winter in the Blood, followed by a discussion with directors Andrew and Alex Smith and actor Lily Gladstone.
• Our Distinguished Achievement Award Winner, Maxine Hong Kingston will receive her award and present a talk.
• We’ll have a range of panels and presentations on Native American literature(s) and writers as part of the conference’s cross-over WLA and English Education events.
• There will also be featured critical and creative writing plenaries to suit the many interests of our members. Some of the highlighted writers and critics include Rick Bass, Zach Bean, Glen Chamberlain, Frances McCue, Mandy Smoker Broaddus, and Michael Cobb.
• A guided day-trip to Yellowstone Park on Saturday is in the offing.
• Alan Weltzien will lead the hardy and nature-hungry amongst you on a hike on Saturday.
• We’re working on something new and different—and more welcoming and affordable for all participants—for what was known as the Past President’s Lunch. Details to come.
• The Spa at Big Sky tells me they will be open during our conference dates.
More later,


Greetings! As host of the 2016 Western Literature Association Conference, which will take place in Big Sky, Montana, September 21-24, 2016, I invite you to consider giving a paper, organizing a session, or attending for the sheer pleasure of discovering all the intriguing and exciting work being done in western literary studies. The theme for this year’s conference is “The Profane West.” (Please see the CFP for a fuller discussion of the theme: it isn’t just swearing.) Be brave, be bold!

This year’s conference returns to Big Sky, MT. The resort is located between Bozeman and West Yellowstone, one of the popular gateways to Yellowstone National Park. Lean more about the resort here: http://bigskyresort.com. Fall in Montana is usually gorgeous, with warm days and cool nights, but last time we were at Big Sky, it snowed! Whatever the weather, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most specular scenery in the West, with numerous dining opportunities and much to occupy your time in addition to the conference. For those of you (there must be some, including me!) who don’t itch to get outside in the grandeur, Big Sky has a spa as well as plenty of places to relax into the quiet.

Big Sky is a tourist destination: that means good food, a chance to buy a mink or diamonds while you’re here, and copious displays of wealth. It’s also a hard-working town, with its own school district, medical center, a distillery, and plenty of friendly people. Consider coming before the conference or staying after it’s done and enjoying yourself at your own pace. It’s worth noting that Big Sky is about a 45-minute drive from Bozeman; shuttle busses will be arranged to take you to the lodge and return you to the airport, but if you’re an explorer, you may want to rent a car. More details, maps, and deals on transportation to come.

We’ve blocked an assortment of rooms (from standard rooms to suites to lofts that accommodate 2-8 guests, with room rates ranging from $149 to $289 plus tax) for the conference, so there’s much for you to choose from.

Conference highlights and details are being arranged, but here are some of the planned events that have me beyond excited about hosting you:

Our Distinguished Achievement Award Winner is Maxine Hong Kingston. Ms. Kingston is Professor Emerita at UC Berkeley, and she is the author of many books, including The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts, China Men, and Tripmaster Monkey. Her blazingly brave and original work has earned numerous awards, including the National Book Award, PEN West Achievement Award, and the National Medal of Arts. Ms. Kingston will be attending with her husband Earll, and she will be giving an address at the conference.

For our opening night activity, we anticipate screening Winter in the Blood, with a discussion featuring the directors Andrew Smith and Alex Smith to follow. James Welch’s powerful novel-turned-film was the Official Selection in 2013 of the Los Angeles, Austin, and American Indian film festivals.

We’re also at work developing a new component of the conference that will welcome and support secondary school teachers in their work teaching western American literature. More detail on that in coming months.

Our annual awards dinner will take place Friday evening, and the dance, featuring the popular local western/honky tonk/all around good dancing band, Little Jane and the Pistol Whips will keep us dancing through the evening.

For other entertainment and down-time fun, there will be a Saturday tour bus to Yellowstone National Park. Alan Weltzien has committed to leading a hike on Saturday for interested fitness buffs. Big Sky also offers zip lining, hiking, and other activities that can be booked individually or in small groups. (I plan to zip line and then get a massage!)

I’ll provide more details as we get closer to the event. But just a few last reminders:

  • Paper and session proposals are due June 1, 2016. This is earlier than usual, so please take note.
  • We will be using ConfTool as the registration software, and we will have appropriate keywords to identify submissions for various awards.

Welcome to 2016 WLA at Big Sky, Montana! I can’t wait to see you there!

Linda Karell
Montana State University





The profane: not limited to the blasphemous or the obscene, but rather encompassing that which is underrepresented, undervalued, censored, denied, and/or secretly shared. Unofficial and unsanctioned pleasures and punishments. The necessary complement of the sacred, helping both to define and erode it.

The 51st annual Western Literature Conference, hosted by Linda Karell (Montana State University), will take place in the spectacular natural beauty and undeniable tourist development that is Big Sky, Montana. We invite you to think about “the profane West” in ways that challenge entrenched definitions/conceptions/celebrations of the West—including the once subversive.

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

°  Indigenous literatures of and about the West
°  Feminist and queer approaches to Western literature
°  Women’s autobiographical and memoir writing
°  Pedagogy and K-12 issues in Western literature
°  Animals (and sacred cows) in Western literature
°  Montana literature and writers

Proposals for panels and roundtable discussions should include an abstract for each paper or presentation. Deadline: June 1, 2016.

Please direct your questions to WLAConference2016@westernlit.org.


  • 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