Animal Studies CFP

Susan Nance is looking to put together an animal studies panel(s?) for this year’s Western Literature Association meeting. The conference will be a great place to really think about and talk about how Westerners have interacted with and conceived of animals, and to do so in some very open-ended and innovative ways. I will be offering a paper on the nature of animal celebrity in the transnational, virtual “West” of social media and urban rodeo promotion (ie. websites) since 1990. At this stage, other paper options are infinite…

The interested should please send paper proposals of up to 250 words with ample contact information to me at by May 22, 2012.

The WLA deadline for proposals is June 22, 2012


International Western Films (CFP)

Call for Papers:  (Re)Locating the Frontier: International Western Films (edited volume)

Cinematic representations of the North American West, from the silent era to the present, have played an important role in one of the United States’ core cinematic genres and in the viewing lives of generations of audiences. The Western tradition, however, with its well-worn tropes, readily identifiable characters, iconic landscapes, and evocative soundtracks, is not limited to the United States. Western, or Western-inspired films have played a part in the output of numerous national film traditions, including Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Considerations of these films, for the most part, have been decidedly U.S.-centric, with discussions of international Westerns typically limited to a small number of Eurowesterns and their directors.

This collection of essays seeks to broaden the scholarly conversation about Westerns by considering films beyond the Hollywood and Spaghetti Western traditions. The editors seek contributions that address a wide range of international Westerns, including their significance, meanings, and reception in their the national industries which gave them form.  How do Westerns not made in the U.S. use the genre for their own purposes? Through what innovations or adaptations is that achieved?  In what ways do these films challenge or support the idea of national literatures and cinemas?  How do their narratives negotiate nation, narrative, genre, and their intersection?

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

•       El Topo and the Mexican Weird West
•       Filming The Devil’s Backbone: The Border Frontier
•       Genre Mash-ups in Asian Westerns: Dynamite Warrior
•       The Good, the Bad, and the Samurai Tradition
•       Sounds of the Frontier: Eurowestern Soundtracks
•       Eurowestern Film Cycles: Django Rides
•       Exploring the Ostern: White Sun of the Desert
•       Karl May on Screen: The German Frontier Tradition
•       Her Majesty’s West: Carry On, Cowboy
•       Sholay and Frontier Independence
•       The “Northern”: Hollywood North, or Something Else?

Essays dealing with the Spaghetti Western tradition should approach it from a fresh perspective, not yet represented in the substantial scholarly literature.

Acceptance will be contingent upon the contributors’ ability to meet these deadlines, and to deliver professional-quality work.

Publication timetable:

August 15, 2012 – Deadline for Abstracts
September 30, 2012 – Notification of Acceptance Decisions
February 1, 2013 – Chapter Drafts Due
April 30, 2013 – Chapter Revisions Due
May 30, 2013 – Final Revisions Due
July 1, 2013 – Delivery to Publisher

Please submit your abstracts of 500-1000 words and a brief (1-page) CV via email to both of the editors by August 15, 2012:

Cynthia J. Miller –
A. Bowdoin Van Riper –

Justified: Season 3

The last three episodes of Season 3 of Justified followed a general theme of things falling apart or going to pieces for various characters. This theme was almost literal in the case of Robert Quarles (spoilers follow!), the downy-haired bad guy from Detroit, whose efforts to take control of Kentucky crime came to a bloody and violent end. He was, as Raylan commented, “disarmed,” as he went from metaphorically falling to pieces (aided by a nasty escalating addiction to popping pills like candy) to being chopped into (two) pieces at the end in the aptly named final episode, “Slaughterhouse.”

Everyone’s best laid plans have been falling apart. Dickie Bennett’s good fortune at being released from prison takes a turn as he tries to find out where his mother’s money (being kept by Limehouse) is located. This leads to several good plans—Boyd’s plan to knock over the bank where the money is supposedly located; the police’s plan to catch Boyd in the act; Wynn Duffy’s plan to get rid of what has become his Quarles problem by blowing up his car (which is supposed to also create a distraction for the bank robbery). None of these events go as planned (and the money is most definitely not where Dickie thinks it is).

Dickie’s hair has been concrete metaphor #1 for the general messiness of the characters’ lives in the last part of the season.  By the time he emerges from prison in “Measures,” his hair, which otherwise continues to point in all directions like he’s been licked by a herd of cows, has asserted a measure of order by shaving (sort of) a patch over each ear (or, as it looks, maybe it wasn’t shaved, but just got licked by a particularly rough cow tongue). Dickie’s plans never go well, and he ends up getting shot (in the leg, it looked like) by Raylan. In other words, we may not have seen the last of Dickie and his hair.

Raylan’s father is also falling to pieces, at least mentally. He believes he is having conversations with his deceased wife. His loss of psychological control is most apparent when he shoots a state trooper—who, it seems, he shot primarily because he was wearing a hat (just not the cowboy hat that he thought it was). That his own father killed another man because he thought he was shooting Raylan does not sit well with Raylan, and, in the final scene, Raylan looks about as exhausted as we’ve ever seen him, not so much physically beat up as beat up every other possible way.

So, season three ends with Dickie still alive, Limehouse still in control of his part of Harlan County, and with Boyd released from custody (Raylan’s father, as a gift to the man he wishes had been his son, takes the rap for the murder of Devil). However, the little criminal gang that Boyd has started is falling apart as well, in ways he doesn’t realize—Johnny is betraying him to Limehouse. Still, Boyd and Ava have each other, and they seem to be looking more and more like a Harlan County Bonnie and Clyde by the end of the season.  And maybe it’s just me, but aren’t Boyd and Ava being styled in a way that evokes Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway?

All this promises interesting developments for season four.

On “Work Wives” and Other Partners

In the most recent episode of In Plain Sight, “The Merry Wives of Witsec,” Mary and Marshall find themselves with a witness who has been leading a double life. They only find out about the double life when the witness brings his second wife and daughter to Albuquerque.  Neither family knows that the other exists, and, technically, the witness isn’t practicing bigamy so much as duplicity. He faked the marriage certificate for his second wife, so they’re not legally married (which is a surprise to her).

Spoilers follow, so stop reading here if you haven’t seen the episode!

This is an amusing episode. At one point, both Mary and Marshall make so many not-so sotto voce comments during a joint therapy session for the two recently conjoined families that they’re asked to leave the room. Ultimately, though, the anguish in the two families is real enough to cut through the humor, and, the episode seems to be making the larger point that the witness’s double life is different only in degree from what the rest of us are doing in contemporary society. Mary suggests that the witness is living out every man’s “Betty and Veronica” fantasy–having both the pretty blonde and the buxom brunette. Marshall, she claims is no different, with his southern belle (gun-packing) girlfriend and his “work wife,” Mary herself.

Mary is kind of right, but maybe incomplete in attributing this only to Marshall. After all, who is Marshall but her very own “work wife”? The episode subtly suggests that to negotiate modern society we all need multiple partners. In a society that sharply separates home-private life from work-public life, a partner-“wife” in each sphere is almost a survival necessity. Where would Mary be, after all, without her ex-husband-turned-“home wife” to take care of her baby? Especially since she is having trouble trusting anyone enough to hire as a sitter (amusingly, she refuses one potential nanny because she has two jaywalking tickets, which makes her, according to Mary, “a repeat offender”).

Stan is also leading his own double life of sorts. Earlier in the season, he was wondering how to ask out his dance teacher (Tia Carrere), someone who was, after all, his partner already, but a partner in another role. As the season has progressed, his dance partner has become his romantic partner, but he’s started to have trouble negotiating the split between his romantic life and work life. There are some things he can’t tell her about his job. And, to the gossipy amusement of his co-workers, he and Lia are observed by Mary in a liplock at a fancy restaurant.

And Marshall also needs his “work wife” Mary to help him out with his romantic life. He’s trying to make reservations to surprise Abigail to celebrate their “first date” anniversary and needs Mary’s help to keep it a surprise. While scoffing at the very idea of a dating anniversary, Mary makes reservations (when she’s unable to get them in at Marshall’s first choice) at the perfect place—Friday night at the shooting range. It’s extremely helpful when your “work wife” knows you and your other partner well enough to know the best place for a romantic evening for the two of you.

The best part of the episode: Marshall proposing to Abigail at the shooting range. As In Plain Sight does so well at its best, the series mocks sentimental conventions at the same time that it delivers the emotional goods as well any one else. I was completely not expecting a proposal in this scene, and then even when Marshall went down on one knee, it took a second to realize what was coming—an engagement ring, attached to Abigail’s target. Funny and touching both, this proposal at the shooting range was one of the best staged proposals I’ve seen on television in a long while. Thank goodness Marshall had his “work wife” to help set it up.

In Plain Sight: Final Season

Mary’s back!  And, to quote Marshall, “Semi-hostile teasing, welcome back!” When we last saw her, we saw a very pregnant gun-wielding Mary shooting the villain who had been trying to kill her. “I shot a suspect,” Mary explains, “And then went in to labor.” In the interim, Mary has given birth, and the new season begins with her first day back at the job.

The third episode takes us to the Owindo Indian Reservation (as far as I can determine, the Owindo are a fictional tribe) in pursuit of a Navy Seal turned-witness-turned-escaped witness. Marshall and Mary have to navigate the fact that they don’t have jurisdiction on the land of this sovereign nation. Fortunately, Wes Studi (always good to see) is the chief of police of the Owindo, and after trading jibes with Marshall, gives them permission to to chase the fugitive—on the condition they take his deputy (and daughter) along with them. This leads to the unexpected sight of Marshall and Mary on horseback. Mary renames her horse “Dog Food.”

It’s surprising that it’s taken this long to get an episode set on an Indian reservation. It’s also good to see the series go so explicitly into the western genre—our heroes on horseback crossing Indian territory. And, it turns out, the reservation is the location of an old movie set that was used for westerns back in the day, so Marshall and Mary literally ride into a western. In addition to Wes Studi, Twilight saga and Winter in the Blood actress Julia Jones guest stars as Heather, the chief’s daughter. And before the episode is over, we have a shootout (in the old western movie set, naturally) and Heather proves herself to be a good shot.