full name / name of organization:
South Atlantic Modern Language Association
(Re)Constructing the American West
In his essay “Walking,” Henry David Thoreau says, “We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure.” Similarly, in All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren’s protagonist remarks on a trip westward, “For West is where we all plan to go some day.” Yet, Warren’s west is starkly different from Thoreau’s. The myth of the American West has provided a geographical space for philosophers, writers, artists, and filmmakers to interrogate, personal as well as cultural, ambivalence towards the promises of Manifest Destiny, the American Dream, capitalism, individualism, diversity, and community. As a result, the metaphorical nature of the American West has reached mythic proportions and is constantly being deconstructed and re-imagined. Thinking about what Roland Barthes says about myth, that “it transforms history into nature,” this panel seeks to examine, through text and/or image, how the myth of the American West has been challenged, transformed, recuperated, or reconstructed since Thoreau. Papers dealing with any aspect of the American West will be considered; but papers dealing with the convention’s theme, “The Interplay of Text and Image,” are strongly encouraged. By May 15, 2010, please send 250-word abstracts to Amber Estlund, Georgia State University, at firstname.lastname@example.org.