Before the West was the West (CFP)

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR A PROPOSED EDITED COLLECTION: 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 (


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