Visual Depictions of the American West

deadline for submissions: 
March 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Tracy Lassiter, University of New Mexico-Gallup
contact email: 

The American West has been depicted for decades through comic books and graphic novels, including by many authors living outside the U.S. Some of the most famous titles and artists are the series Tex Willer (Tex) by Giovanni Luigi Bonelli and Aurelio Galleppini, Blueberry by Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean Giraud, Bessy and Buffalo Bill, two Flemish titles published through the Belgian Vandersteen publishing company, and Jerry Spring by Joseph Gillain, all published in the decades following World War II. Significantly, more contemporary comic and graphic novel titles and authors, rather than romanticizing the U.S.’s western past, depict the history of its colonization and the use of race as an ideological vector. Notably, Native American graphic novelists and comic book creators are part of this emerging new literary wave, telling stories of history, conflict, resistance, and activism from a perspective that has been long overlooked—and overdue.

Join us Nov. 16-20, 2020 at Ca' Foscari, the University of Venice, Italy, for a critical conference on these genres.

This conference stems from the need to explore the various ways the American West has been depicted in comics/graphic novel form across the years and different countries. We want to pay particular attention to comparative approaches that address American (Zane Gray, James Oliver Curwood, Jack London et alii) and European (Emilio Salgari, Luigi Motta et alii) popular literature, which serve as both visual rewriting formulas and forms of neuro-narratological itinerary. We will take into particular consideration projects that explore the intersection between heterogeneous languages, or between cinema/audiovisual works and popular/auteur comics, as a means of recoding the Western genre. In particular, we invite scholars to offer special attention to rewritings, to parodies and satirical representations, as well as to Latin American production (from the Cangaçeiros to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and beyond). Finally, given the U.S.’s recent policies with regard to immigrants at its southern borders, we find titles such as Duncan Tonatiuh’s Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight or Alberto Ledesma’s Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer to be especially relevant.

In sum, we welcome presentations that explore topics such as, but are not limited to:

  • the significance of landscapes versus borders;
  • open sky versus fences;
  • Westward expansion, the imposition on native populations and the institution of reservations;
  • the role of commerce and industry in socio-political conflicts or with regard to environmental and wildlife issues;
  • bilateral challenges to stereotypes, with particular attention to those related to non-white peoples;
  • intersemiotic translations and adaptations of West stories;
  • translated, adapted and transcreated stories;
  • epic and traditional stories;
  • fictionalized stories of historical people;
  • comics and audiovisual Western stories in the world; and
  • Western schemes in alternative times and geographical spaces (eg. Austral Africa, Australia, Siberia, South Italy)

For more information, contact Dr. Tracy Lassiter at tlassiter@unm.edu or see the conference website at venicewestconference@gmail.com. The submission deadline for panel ("seminar") and paper proposals has been extended to March 30, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CET.