• Testimonials

    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, 2007
    Taylor Award recipient 1988, repeat EC Member, WLA President 2011, and Treasurer since 2014

WLA Conference 2022


56th WLA Conference
Santa Fe, NM

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the Western Literature Association has reluctantly decided to postpone the 2021 conference. Instead, we expect to gather in Santa Fe in 2022.

In the meantime, we will be organizing alternative digital events for 2021. Please check for more information at Virtual Events 2021.

Palimpsests and Western Literatures:
The Layered Spaces of History, Imagination, and the Future

hosted by Professors Lisa Tatonetti and Audrey Goodman

Lisa Tatonetti and Audrey Goodman

Luci Tapahonso (Diné) was chosen as the 2022 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient. She will accept the award at the conference!

Call for Papers:

Craig Dan Goseyun (San Carlos Apache), Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer (Courtesy Tourism Santa Fe)

Craig Dan Goseyun (San Carlos Apache), Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer (Courtesy Tourism Santa Fe)

A palimpsest is a material, be it birchbark or slate or parchment, upon which something is written, and then expunged or blotted out, only to be written upon again. It is a thing made of layers of inscription, a thing made of strata of expression, a thing made of traces that may not be visible but can never be fully erased or repressed.

Santa Fe, the location of WLA in 2022, is a place made of palimpsests at once beautiful and disturbing. It is the oldest capital in the United States; its name declares the arrival of Catholicism and colonialism in the New World.  At the center of the Santa Fe Plaza, on Pueblo and Jicarilla Apache land, stands a nineteenth-century settler monument, a graying marble slab that reads:

To the heroes
who have fallen in the various battles with XXXX
Indians in the territory
Of New Mexico

The missing word in the inscription, which originally read “savage,” has long been chiseled out. The carved-out indentation, layered upon that elided slur, speaks volumes. In recent years, the word “courageous” has been written atop that same loud space. This palimpsest speaks to the ways that settler colonialism tries to erase both the presence of Indigenous peoples and its own histories of violence, and to the impossibility of that task. WLA 2022 takes such layered spaces of history, of imagination, of present, and of the future as its call.

We ask, then, for participants to look at the layers, collisions, omissions, and the expressive possibilities of the palimpsest. From Indigenous-Indigenous encounters, to settler incursions, to Mexican, Spanish, and broader Latinx landscapes–what is the palimpsest in Western literatures writ large? Is it the double exposure of a photograph? The bi- or tri-lingual text of a public mural? Is it in the queer traces in a Cather text? Or in the multiple narrators of a Midwest podcast? Is a palimpsest a zombie apocalypse written over post-Civil War Kansas in Dread Nation? Or is it the elision of the words “climate change” or “oil spill” from government documents about threats to the Ogallala aquifer? Is it a strategy for reading Georgia O’Keeffe’s landscapes or Cormac McCarthy’s prose? What are the palimpsests of the West?

We invite papers and discussions addressing these and other topics that seek to describe, undercover, and animate the inscriptions in and beyond this layered western space.

Send queries to Audrey Goodman and/or Lisa Tatonetti, our current WLA Presidents.


  • 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.

  • Black Lives Matter

    The Western Literature Association (WLA) is in solidarity with Black communities, after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the ongoing pattern of systemic racism and injustice that targets black and brown bodies. ...http://www.westernlit.org/black-lives-matter/