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Undead in the West (12/1/09; 3/31-4/3/10
full name / name of organization:
Cynthia J. Miller
Call for Papers: Undead in the West
PCA/ACA National Conference
March 31-April 3, 2010
St. Louis, Missouri
Deadline: December 1, 2009
Co-presenters are being sought for a panel on the “Undead in the West,” as part of the Westerns and the West area at the PCAs.
The frontier has long been framed as a landscape of life and death, but few scholarly works have ventured into the realm where the two become one, to explore portrayals of the Undead in the West – the zombies, vampires, mummies, and others that have lumbered, crept, shambled, and swooped into the western from other genres. This sub-genre, while largely a post-1990 phenomenon, traces it roots to much deeper hybrid traditions of Westerns and horror or science fiction, and yet, shows ties to the recent A-Western renaissance. What happens when traditional frontier figures, settings, symbols, and ideologies encounter these characters that defy the laws of nature? How are western archetypes subverted or accentuated when confronted by the undead? How do zombies, vampires, and the like, affect our understandings and interpretations of the West, and vice-versa? Might these hybrid westerns function as the new anti-western, or do the undead facilitate a return to tradition?
Other possible issues include, bur are not limited to:
-- Do vampires and zombies map on to traditional Western “bad guys,” such as Indians, Mexicans, and outlaws? Have zombies become a "safe" substitute for Indians as aliens have for foreign soldiers in stories of war and invasion?
-- How do the conventions of the Western intersect with the conventions of the Undead movie . . . Do the movies play with either set of conventions for dramatic effect (James Woods' character Jack Crow as a vampire-hunting version of Clint Eastwood's amoral Western avengers) or comic relief (the zombie sheriff and prostitute in Deadwalkers)? .
-- Do undead Westerns consciously use the Undead elements of the plot to comment on the nature of traditional Western heroes and villains?
These questions and more may be asked of films of the Old West, or the new, such as Bubba Ho-tep (2002), when a Stetson-wearing mummy menaces a nursing home in the East Texas backwater; From Dusk ‘til Dawn (1996), when vampires prey on unsuspecting patrons of a Mexican bar; It Came From the West (2007), the puppet zombie western from Denmark; or Purgatory (1999), where the frontier town of Refuge serves as liminal space between heaven and hell; and numerous other tales of the Undead in the West.
Papers presented in “Undead in the West” at the PCAs may also be considered for a larger post-conference project.