Appalachian Literature Panel at SAAS. Alcalá de Henares (Madrid, Spain) April 14-16, 2011. Deadline October 29, 2010.

full name / name of organization: 
SAAS-Spanish Association for American Studies

10th International Conference of the Spanish Association for American Studies (SAAS, on "The Backyard of the USA Mansion: Critical Readings of Poverty and Wealth in the United States") to be held in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, April 14-16, 2011. Our host institution this year is Instituto B. Franklin-Universidad de Alcalá

Panel title: " 'Off the beaten track': Appalachian Images and Narratives of Poor Mountain People"

The thirteen-state Appalachian region has often been identified as the poorest area in the United States. In The Other America (1962), Michael Harrington pointed out Appalachian chronic poverty to the rest of America. He wrote that "Poverty is often off the beaten track. It always has been. The ordinary tourist never left the main highway…[and] does not see the company houses in rows, the rutted roads… [where] everything is black and dirty." Throughout the twentieth century, government efforts have been made to eradicate poverty in the rural areas of Appalachia (Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, John F. Kennedy's 1963 presidential commission on Appalachian poverty, Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty in 1964, and Bill Clinton's public statement on poverty in Kentucky in 1999). Portrayals of poverty have always been present in the narratives, films and documentaries about Appalachia. Some of these images of poor mountain folk have presented them as both stereotypical "hillbillies" and victims of corporate greed, government neglect and lately environmental abuse. Despite the significant economic growth in the region over the years, the feeling that some parts of Appalachia are still America's back yard pervades the body of work of many contemporary writers, photographers, and film makers of the region.

Some of the topics that we might want to address include:
-Critical readings of poverty and Appalachia as a symbol of exploitation and extraction in the works of contemporary writers like Dorothy Allison, Wendell Berry, Wilma Dykeman, Denise Giardina, Chris Holbrook, Silas House, Chris Offutt, Anne Pancake, Breece D'J Pancake, Ron Rash, Lee Smith, and Meredith Sue Willis, among others.

-Novels dealing with unionization, miners' strikes and social revolts in the 1920s and 1930s in the region, and Appalachian out-migration to cities after WW II.

-Fiction and Nonfiction writing as a form of social activism in Appalachia "to raise awareness of what is happening in our own back yards" (Silas House, Missing Mountains, 2005, p.6).

-Novels / documentaries dealing with mountaintop removal mining and the destruction of landscape, natural resources and the perpetuation of poverty.

-Images (re)presenting extreme poverty: a strategy to fight or to perpetuate stereotypes about the region? Shelby Lee Adams' controversial Appalachian Portraits.

Please email an abstract of approximately 500 words along with any equipment requests to Carmen Rueda at before October 29, 2010.