Job Opening (Northern Arizona University)

The Department of Comparative Cultural Studies at Northern Arizona University seeks to hire an Online Instructor in Humanities for a one-year teaching appointment (Aug 2011 to May 2012).

Minimum Qualifications:
M.A. in a Humanities discipline
Teaching experience in a Humanities discipline

Preferred Qualifications
Ph.D./ABD in a Humanities discipline
Experience teaching online Humanities classes

The successful candidate will teach 4 courses per semester and should have the ability to teach the
HUM 101
Introduction to Humanities
CCS 250
Cultural Perspectives (topics course)
CCS 350W
Words at Work: Researching and Writing about Culture (writing course)
CCS 490C
Capstone in Comparative Cultural Studies

The ability to offer other courses in our curriculum, either in HUM or
CCS would be welcome.

To apply for this position, please send the following material:
1. Letter of application, detailing online teaching experience and addressing courses you are
prepared to teach
2. C.V.
3. Sample syllabus
4. Contact information for three professional references

Send application material by email attachment to
Prof. Gioia Woods
Dept. of Comparative Cultural Studies
Northern Arizona University, Box 6031
Flagstaff, AZ 86011

The position remains open until filled, but we urge applicants to respond quickly.

Western Oscar Nominees

Thanks to True Grit and 127 Hours, westerns and films set in the American West did much better than usual in garnering Academy Awards nominations. Both films received Best Adapted Screenplay nominations as well as for Best Picture and for actor in a leading role (Jeff Bridges, James Franco). Additionally, Hailee Steinfeld was nominated for a best supporting actress award for her portrayal of Mattie Ross, and the Coen brothers received a nomination in the directing category. The two films were nominated in several other categories as well (including cinematography for True Grit and editing for 127 Hours).

Frank Rich on True Grit

Columnist Frank Rich had an interesting take on True Grit in his New York Times column Sunday (Jan 22, 2011), comparing it to The Social Network, and arguing that True Grit depicts America as we wish it could be while The Social Network depicts (critically) the America that is (click on the excerpt below to go to the full article).

I wonder if the appeal of True Grit to a broad audience is also reflective of contemporary views of heroism, longing for a hero, perhaps, but skeptical. True Grit both mocks and celebrates its heroes. Cogburn is certainly a flawed hero, as well as being as much a comic character as a heroic one. LaBoeuf is a comic character throughout, but he nonetheless rises to the occasion, and despite his vanity, thin-skinnedness about the Texas Rangers, and cow-licked hair, he makes the astounding shot that fells Ned Peppers.

From “The One-Eyed Man is King” (by Frank Rich):

But what leaps out this time, to the point of seeming fresh, is the fierce loyalty of the principal characters to each other (the third being a vain Texas Ranger, played by Matt Damon) and their clear-cut sense of morality and justice, even when the justice is rough. More than the first “True Grit,” the new one emphasizes Mattie’s precocious, almost obsessive preoccupation with the law. She is forever citing law-book principles, invoking lawyers and affidavits, and threatening to go to court. “You must pay for everything in this world one way or another,” says Mattie. “There is nothing free except the grace of God.”

That kind of legal and moral cost-accounting seems as distant as a tintype now. The new “True Grit” lands in an America that’s still not recovered from a crash where many of the reckless perpetrators of economic mayhem deflected any accountability and merely moved on to the next bubble, gamble or ethically dubious backroom deal. When Americans think of the law these days, they often think of a system that can easily be gamed by the rich and the powerful, starting with those who pillaged Lehman Brothers, A.I.G. and Citigroup and left taxpayers, shareholders and pensioners in the dust. A virtuous soul like Mattie would be crushed in a contemporary gold rush even if (or especially if) she fought back with the kind of civil action so prized by the 19th-century Mattie.

Talk about Two Americas. Look at “The Social Network” again after seeing “True Grit,” and you’ll see two different civilizations, as far removed from each other in ethos as Silicon Valley and Monument Valley. While “Social Network” fictionalizes Mark Zuckerberg, it mines the truth of an era — from the ability of the powerful and privileged to manipulate the system to the collapse of loyalty as a prized American virtue at the top of that economic pyramid.

Panel at ALA (CFP)

Call for Papers
American Literature Association
Boston, MA
May 26-29, 2011

The Western Literature Association is sponsoring a session on “Western Institutions” at the American Literature Association’s 22nd Annual Conference. Papers on all aspects of western institutions, those famous, infamous, iconic, and up-and-coming (and related topics), are welcome. Ideally, this panel seeks to interrogate the making and meaning of western institutions and their various roles in western American literature, identity, and history.

Please submit proposals via e-mail before 27 January 2011, to the program
chair: Nicolas Witschi <>

Audio-visual equipment: the ALA provides AV equipment only upon request, so any proposal for a presentation should include mention of what kind of
equipment would be useful

Conference Information: The American Literature Association’s 22nd annual
conference will meet at the Westin Copley Place in Boston on 26-29 May 2011
(Thursday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend). For further information, please consult the ALA website at or contact the
conference director Professor Alfred Bendixen via email

Location: The Westin Copley Place, 10 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA
02116-5798, (617-262-9600)

Conference Fee: For those who pre-register before April 15, 2011: $90 ($60
for Graduate Students, Independent Scholars, and Retired Faculty). After
April 15, the fees are $100 and $70.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers


The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 136 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 265 posts. There were 49 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 39mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was October 24th with 154 views. The most popular post that day was Grand Obsessions.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for western literature association, western short stories, western literature association conference 2010, western songs, and bryce canyon.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Grand Obsessions October 2010


Early American Borderlands Conference August 2009


Book of Eli, End of the World, and the Western January 2010
1 comment


Favorite Western Songs February 2009


In Plain Sight: When Mary Met Marshall April 2010

Season 5 of Little Mosque

The fifth season of the Canadian situation comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie has started. Set in the small town of Mercy, Saskatchewan, and partially filmed on location in the province, Little Mosque on the Prairie is an enjoyable comedy focusing on the Muslim community in Mercy, and focusing particularly on Imam Amaar Rashid, a former lawyer from Toronto who has left behind the legal profession and big city life to lead a small congregation out West. It’s a little bit like Northern Exposure, with quirky small town characters and its fish out of water central character—at least in the earlier seasons.

As I noted in an earlier blog post, the title playfully evokes Laura Ingall Wilder’s series of frontier narratives, and, although the setting is contemporary, Little Mosque emphasizes its small town in the prairies location as well as a sense of the frontier as a meeting point between different cultures, a first contact of sorts between Muslims and Christians. The meeting point is not only the town of Mercy but also Mercy Anglican, which houses the mosque as well as the church.

The Christians and the Muslims don’t always get along, the friction a source of much of the comedy. For that matter, the Muslims have their own conflicts (especially between the conservative and progressive factions, a divide that Amaar must negotiate). There is a group of  Mercyites as well who are opposed to the Muslim presence in town, spearheaded by right-wing radio host Fred Tupper. In one of the first episodes, Fred brings in Amaar for an interview, and the conversation shows one of the ways the show evokes the genre western and ideas of the (Canadian) West:

Fred: I call on Reverend Magee to turn you and your gang out the church by sundown.

Amaar: Sundown? What is this? the Wild West?

Fred: You got that right, my little bedouin buckaroo. You’re not in the big city anymore.

Season four began with the arrival of a new sheriff in town, or, rather, a new priest, Rev. Thorne, for whom Amaar  is quite simply “the enemy.” As a comic foil to Amaar, the conniving Rev. Thorne was quite delightful. By the end of the season, Rev. Thorne had managed to manipulate the conservative Muslim faction into firing Amaar. Baber, the head of the conservatives, took over as Imam, and Amaar rented a space in Joe’s field. In one of the more moving and beautiful scenes of the series, Amaar began leading prayers outdoors on the prairie. In the interim, Baber (instigated by Rev. Thorne) invited a super-conservative group of “nomad” Muslims to Mercy, which provided the excuse that Thorne had been looking for to evict the Muslims from the church.

The season ended with Amaar winning back his congregation, and with the revelation of Thorne’s manipulation of events, and ultimately with the disgrace of Rev. Thorne.  As season five begins, Thorne is bedeviled by one of his parishioners posting a video on YouTube of his angry meltdown, in which he insults everyone and everything in Mercy. Rev. Thorne is a superb comic antagonist, and I expect that he will return to that role soon. At the moment, he’s attempting contrition (not very successfully).

The first four seasons are currently available on DVD.

For more information, see the Little Mosque on the Prairie Official Website.