“American Sniper” as Western

Alex Young at Salon.com on “American Sniper” as a revisionist western (click on excerpt to go to full article):

In a recent interview with Terry Gross, Bradley Cooper described how he and screenwriter Jason Hall initially envisioned “American Sniper” as a revisionist western. “The idea was to have a construct of a western, but play with it a bit in the way that ‘Unforgiven’ did, you know?…I like that idea of playing with these archetypes.” But, Cooper goes on to say, after Chris Kyle was murdered, Hall decided that Kyle’s death demanded that he tell a more authentic story, a story more focused on the relationship between Kyle and his wife, Taya, and one that would narrate Kyle’s “experience going four tours and the schizophrenic nature, almost, of going from home to war.”

Ironically, what Cooper described as a complete transformation in the film’s framing ended up deepening the film’s ties to the western genre.  Like so many westerns, “American Sniper” revolves around the tensions between a hypermasculine hero, who only feels at home on the frontier of “civilization and savagery,” and a heroine who embodies domesticity.  Like so many westerns, it has been defended and attacked on the basis of the authenticity (or lack thereof) of its representations of a distant “frontier.”


WLA Conference 2015

Call for papers

50th Annual Conference of the

Western Literature Association

“Visual Culture of the Urban West”

Reno, Nevada: October 14-17, 2015 

The 50th annual conference of the Western Literature Association takes place at Harrah’s Reno. We will gather there in “The Biggest Little City” on the western edge of the Great Basin, at the intersection of Washoe and Paiute tribal homelands, where the transcontinental emigrant trail and railroad line meet the mighty Sierra Nevada, 35 highway miles from North Lake Tahoe. Riding the edge of old and new, at the interface of urban and wild, of indigeneity and transience, Reno is an apt location for our semi-centennial: an occasion to consider our histories, but more so, the next 50 years of western American literary and cultural studies. In that spirit, our diverse featured speakers include Native American performance artist Arigon Starr, writer and activist Rebecca Solnit, novelist and musician Willy Vlautin, and a collective tribute to Robert Laxalt and the transatlantic tradition of Basque-American writing.

In addition to proposals on any aspects of the literature and culture of the North American West, we especially encourage innovative proposals on the following:

• Visual culture, film, performance
• Environmental art, politics, justice, literatures
• Indigenous Wests, writers, filmmakers, artists
• Basque-American writers
• Latino/a Studies in Western places
• Twain and Tahoe
• Gendered spaces in the West
• Emigrant and mining narratives
• The recreational West: tourism, mountaineering, river-running

Reno is easily reached by direct flights from many major hubs, soon to include New York City and London! Amtrak’s California Zephyr stops daily at the depot a few steps from our conference hotel, where room rates will run $99/night Friday and Saturday, and $59 other nights, with many complimentary amenities including wifi. See www.harrahsreno.com for more information.

All participants must be members of the Western Literature Association.

Contact us with questions about the conference at WLAConference2015@westernlit.orgProposal deadline: June 15, 2015. 

Proposals for panels and roundtable discussions should include an abstract for each paper or presentation.


Download the pdf version of this call for papers here here.