Call for Essay Submissions: Before the West was West: Pre-1800 Western American Literature

full name / name of organization: 
Tom J. Hillard and Amy T. Hamilton


Before the West was West: Pre-1800 Western American Literature

We are seeking submissions for a collection of essays tentatively titled Before the West was West: Pre-1800 Western American Literature. Since the inception of Western American literature as a distinct field of study in the 1960s, scholars have debated how to define its parameters. They have asked: Is Western American literature a regional literature bounded by geographical markers? Or is it defined by particular sets of metaphors, images, and themes?

Recently, Western literary studies has put pressure on the way we define "the West" by increasingly including more non-white, non-male voices and considering urban and even virtual environments as well as the more familiar Western rural and ranching spaces. However, even as scholars attempt to challenge assumptions of what constitutes Western American literature, they have largely ignored pre-1800 texts, focusing instead on diverse voices from the nineteenth-century onward.

This gap is surprising, because the implications of reading pre-1800 texts alongside or even as "Western" texts are manifold. This proposed volume asks scholars to reevaluate the field's temporal and geographical boundaries. In short, how might our understanding of Western American literature change if we reimagine when and where the West began?

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
* Authors usually considered "Early American" who engage themes resonant with Western American literature
* Early articulations of Manifest Destiny
* Literature from "El Norte" that precedes the U.S. presence
* American Indian oral traditions and early written texts
* Literature of the Borderlands
* Early African American slave narratives
* Early representations of wilderness and wildness
* Examinations of regional and discipline borders and boundaries
* Early captivity narratives
* Exploration and/or Travel narratives

We invite proposals for critical essays that approach pre-1800 North American literature (from any nationality or ethnic group) through the lens of Western literary studies. Please send a 250-500 word abstract by February 15, 2011. The deadline for 5000-7000 word essays from accepted abstracts will be August 31, 2011.

Please send all inquiries and proposals to both Amy T. Hamilton ( and Tom J. Hillard (