Commies and Indians (Symposium)

Greetings Colleagues!

You are cordially invited to a free one-day symposium Commies and Indians: The Western Beyond Cold War Frontiers, to be held at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on 17 May 2013.

The event will feature contributions from a range of scholars including Professor Tim Bergfelder (University of Southampton) and Professor Dina Iordanova (University of St Andrews), and will include screenings of celebrated ‘Red Westerns’.
Please see below for full details, and here:

With best wishes,
Dr. Jonathan Owen (University of St Andrews)

One-Day Symposium – Commies and Indians: The Western Beyond Cold War Frontiers

In the 1960s the Western genre, then waning in its native Hollywood, took root in many European countries. Though Italy’s Spaghetti Westerns indeed remain the best-known result of this transposition, the genre also crossed political lines into Communist Eastern Europe. A highly diverse raft of state-socialist Westerns emerged that twist the genre’s familiar tropes in accord with local culture and history, not to mention the ideological demands of the Cold War.

These ‘Red Westerns’ sometimes play as uproarious parodies of the genre and sometimes as sincere examples of it; they sometimes adapt Western narratives to local histories and settings, and sometimes fabricate an American West with the help of lookalike European locations. If, say, Yugoslavia’s ‘Gibanica’ Westerns spin genre thrills out of that country’s wartime Partisan struggles, then East Germany’s Indianerfilme take place in a recognisable ‘West’ – albeit a radically reimagined one where the Indians are good and the American settlers bad.

Our one-day symposium will chart this fascinating episode in European popular cinema and address such questions as where these films stand in the history of the Western: how might they connect to post-classical, revisionist, demystifying modes of the genre as embodied by Peckinpah or Leone?  This topic also enables us to explore broader, marginalised realities of Eastern Bloc film. With their Hollywood borrowings and frequent dependence on co-production, these films reveal the centrality of the transnational to this region’s cinema. Their often Bloc-busting commercial success further affords consideration of popular pleasures in the people’s democracies.


9:30 – 10.00 Welcome and Opening Comments

10:00-12:00: PANEL 1 – Westerns Around the Bloc

Jonathan Owen : Czech Westerns

Sonja Simonyi : Hungarian Westerns

Dennis Hanlon : Latin American Westerns

12:00-13:00: Lunch Break

13:00-15:00: Screenings: Short Films and Apaches (Apachen, 1973, Gottfried Kolditz)

15:00-15:30: Coffee Break

15:30-17:30: PANEL 2 – East German Westerns

Evan Torner

Tim Bergfelder

Dina Iordanova

17:30-18:00: Close / Discussion



Gearing up for Berkeley

So, the 2013 Western Literature Association Conference is approaching (okay, slowly approaching, as Oct 9 is still a ways away). We have a little bit of information about the conference to report:

Guests include: poet Robert Hass; Ishmael Reed (Oakland author of over a dozen books, founder of the Before Columbus Foundation); Kim Stanley Robinson, science-fiction novelist and environmentalist; Lucha Corpi, a poet and writer of detective novels with a Chicana detective in the San Francisco Bay Area; Gerald Vizenor, a Native American writer who will read from his new novel; also a group of writers from the California Central Valley will be led by Frank Bergon.

Four members of the Mark Twain Society of Japan will present their latest research.  Music for the Friday evening dance will be by the California Cowboys.

Announcement: New Publication

We are glad to let you know about the publication of the third volume in the “American Literary West” series (Portal Editions):

A Contested West: New Readings of Place in the American West
Martin Simonson, David Rio, and Amaia Ibarraran, eds.
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: PortalEditions, S.L. (March 1, 2013)
ISBN-10: 8493970581
ISBN-13: 978-8493970581

As the title of the present book implies, this collection of essays is conceived of as a critical response to mainstream views of the American West. This third volume in the PortalEducation series The American Literary West discloses some of the many – and intriguingly different – accounts of the complex relationships between the West as a physical reality, on the one hand, and human inhabitation and interpretation of this territory, on the other. The subject, while far from new, is also far from being exhausted. In fact, it can never be, because the American West – as any other place – is a perpetual work in progress which is undergoing constant revisions. Thus, the essays of the present volume attempt to illuminate some of these new spots on the ever evolving map of the West, providing fresh perspectives on the struggle to penetrate the veil imposed by traditional accounts, and the urge to comprehend and to portray in writing a number of unique areas that have hitherto been invisible to the vast majority. The project of the writers under study is not only to produce literary archaeology, but first and foremost to offer new interpretations of old histories in a multi-faceted and changing contemporary reality.


Foreword: The West as Generator of Spirit, by Rick Bass
Introduction: The American West: AWork in Progress, by Martin Simonson

Part I: Preliminaries: Human Perception and the West
– The Bioregional Imagination in the American West, by Cheryll Glotfelty
– Small Towns in the American West as Affective Landscapes: The Example of Wickenburg, Arizona, by Nancy Cook
– Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and a Post-Pastoral Theory of Fiction, by Terry Gifford

Part II: Contested Notions of the West,
– From Green to Red: Nature Writing Goes West, by. Christian Voie
– Placing Ecocriticism in a Native Perspective, by Felisa Lopez
– “Dissolving False Divides:” A Chicana/o Revision of Urban Domestic Places, by Juan Ignacio Oliva

Part III: Case Studies: Different Wests
– Considering the Naturalist Ethos in Annie Proulx’s Fine Just the Way It Is, by Aitor Ibarrola
– Bikes Travel Back: An Inner Trip into Phyllis Barber’s Raw Edges from an Ecocritical Viewpoint, by Angel Chaparro
– Writing the Toxic Environment: Ecocriticism and the Chicana Literary Imagination, by María Herrera-Sobek
– The Myth of the Frontier in T.C. Boyle´s The Tortilla Curtain, by Monika Madinabeitia


“For those who thought little new could be said about the literature of the American West, A Contested West will be a big and, I trust, a welcome, surprise. It demonstrates that analysis of the literature of the West is far from complete; indeed it’s barely begun. I am especially impressed with how this anthology is provisional and future oriented, avoiding a sense of closure and instead gesturing towards a diversity of new beginnings. By blending international perspectives with Western American voices, it shows that Western literature is not a matter of provincial interest but is indeed a topic of global significance.”
—Tom Lynch, is co-editor of The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place (with Cheryll Glotfelty and Karla Ambruster) and Artifacts and Illuminations: Critical Essays on Loren Eiseley (with Susan N. Maher), and author of Xerophilia: Ecocritical Explorations in Southwestern Literature.

“This provocative collection proves at least two things: that the American West is a diverse, ever-unfolding “biocultural” phenomenon, as richly complicated as any other place; and that ecocriticism is a diverse, evolving genre of literary scholarship and cultural studies, practiced by a wide range of talented writers. A Contested West is an exciting and authoritative addition to the canon of Western American studies and to the fields of ecocriticism and place studies more generally.”
—Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment.