All posts by neil57

New book on the writing and music of Willy Vlautin – Under the Western Sky edited by Neil Campbell


Under the Western Sky edited by Neil Campbell


“Bringing a sophisticated set of contemporary lenses to bear upon the musical and novel-writing career of Willy Vlautin, Under the Western Sky makes a strong case for Vlautin as a resonant voice in a new kind of West a considerable distance from earlier regional mythologies. In fact, Vlautin emerges as not only a representative, but a central figure whose fictions and songs evoke a series of landscapes—urban, rural, desert—characterized by marginalization, failure, and transience in many forms. Vlautin emerges as a literary son of Raymond Carver, but one who writes in his own voice and for whom music forms a profound and intimate complement to the fiction.”

—O. Alan Weltzien, University of Montana Western

This original collection of essays written by experts in the field weave together the first comprehensive examination of Nevada-born Willy Vlautin’s novels and songs, as well as featuring eleven works of art that accompany his albums and books. Brutally honest, raw, gritty, down to earth, compassionate, and affecting, Willy Vlautin’s writing evokes a power in not only theme but in methodology. Vlautin’s novels and songs chart the dispossessed lives of young people struggling to survive in difficult economic times and in regions of the U.S. West and Pacific Northwest traditionally viewed as affluent and abundant. Yet, as his work shows, these areas are actually highly stratified and deprived.

Featuring an interview with Vlautin himself, this edited collection aims to develop the first serious, critical consideration of the important novels and songs of Willy Vlautin by exploring relations between region, music, and writing through the lens of critical regionality and other interdisciplinary, cultural, and theoretical methodologies.

Neil Campbell is emeritus professor of American Studies at the University of Derby, United Kingdom. He has published several books on American Studies and much of his well-known work covers the New West.

For more information or to order, visit Receive 20% off when you use code UNP20 at checkout.

Paper | 978-1-943859-58-0 | 264 pages | $34.95

(Also available as an Ebook)


Announcement. Neil Campbell’s New Book Published!

Neil Campbell’s new book Affective Critical Regionality has just been published by Rowman & Littlefield International in the Place, Memory, Affect series. The book explores and expands critical regionalism with a particular emphasis on different forms of western writing or writings of the west, including DJ Waldie, Willy Vlautin, Karen Tei Yamashita, Charles Olson, Rebecca Solnit & Kathleen Stewart.

Kathleen Stewart calls it a ‘powerful intervention of a singular kind’ and Steve Tatum  ‘A scintillating, ultimately humane achievement’.

Available in paperback now!




Take a day out of days to explore the surreal magic of America’s leading living playwright.  From humble beginnings in the lofts and cafés of the Village, New York to Broadway and across the globe Sam Shepard has explored family, violence, politics and fear.  These are typical American theatre themes but Shepard takes them on through the eyes of a cowboy.  He mixes classic American theatre with uniquely American cinema, all inspired by the British and Irish theatre revolution of the 1950’s.  A Stetson wearing playwright?  If he didn’t exist, you’d have to make him up.

Already famous by the end of the 1960’s for opinion splitting but award winning plays such as The Rock Garden and La Turista he then escaped New York City and moved to London.  There he wrote perhaps his most purely Shepard play The Tooth of Crime, attempting to mix his passion for music intricately into his theatre work.  Only after his return to the States though was his reputation secured with Buried Child, True West and Fool for Love.  Family plays with a dark heart.

He is of course, for the general public, more famous for his film appearances and script writing.  Days of Heaven saw his first big film but it was the Oscar nomination for playing Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff that brought him a brief Hollywood stardom.  He has gone on to star or co-star in dozens of films since then and written screenplays, most famously for Wim Wenders’ Paris Texas.   The books of short stories/poems/thoughts that have often come from these film experiences such as Motel Chronicles, Cruising Paradise or Day out of Days are perhaps the purest form of his writing and can be read again and again.

Sam Shepard has just turned seventy and is still as busy as ever.  With the influence of Samuel Becket never far away, it is appropriate that much of his recent work has premiered in Ireland due to his strong connections with Abbey Theatre and Stephen Rea’s ‘Field Day’ Theatre Company.

This symposium explores not only his playwriting but also his films and stories, all through the most expert and experienced writers and practitioners working on or with Sam Shepard.

If you are familiar with his work this will keep you right up to date, if you have only just found an interest in some aspect of his art then this symposium will have you coming back for more.

All this from a man who’d rather go fishing than go and see a play.  Sam Shepard is still at the centre of a contradiction. “Can we become completely ourselves even while wishing we were something else?”  (Sam Shepard, Derry, 20th November 2013)

 The day will include the premiere of Ashley Smith’s new play I wish I was Sam Shepard

Confirmed Speakers:

Stephen Bottoms, “Fascinating me to Death: Sam Shepard and the Environmental Absurd”

Phillip Breen (Director), “True West in the 21st Century. Why Shepard’s masterpiece is the play for now”.

Emma Creedon, “Ireland’s Bromance with Sam Shepard…and Vice Versa: A Site for the Surreal.”

Neil Campbell, “Post-Western Man: Framing the West in Sam Shepard’s Films”


£25 for the symposium and play performance, including buffet lunch, teas and coffee.

£12 concessions for seniors, students and unwaged.

How to Buy a Ticket

Contact the Derby Theatre Box Office on 01332 593939 or book online at

CFPs – EAAS Conference Panel The Hague 3-6 April, 2014

CFPs – EAAS Conference Panel The Hague 3-6 April, 2014


We invite papers engaging cultural representations of justice, war, and peace in relation to the American West.  Certainly, war has been an inherent part of literature and film about the West. Violence has been regarded as a central feature to the historical development of the American West and its mythic representation. In fact, in American culture the myth of the frontier has often been viewed as a process of regeneration through violence (Slotkin). However, the story of the American West is also a story of trade, tedium, and peace (McMacken). War and peace have been often linked to justice in popular perceptions of the American West. Thus, many western stories and movies have highlighted the search for justice, or the application of different standards of justice in a number of conflicts, to justify war. In recent years the use of western iconography related to war, justice, and peace has gone beyond national and cultural borders acquiring a political international dimension, as exemplified by George W. Bush’s “Dead or Alive” speech after 9/11 attacks. Indeed, Judith Butler’s Frames of War might be usefully related to how the West has contributed to and “approved of” a particular discourse or war and violence

The workshop aims to address how literary and cultural expressions have imagined justice, war, and peace in the American West, including such topics as the Indian wars, frontier violence, the cult of the gunfighter, race, class, gender and religious conflicts, the border war on drugs, the militarization of the region, immigration clashes, urban riots, social justice, peace movements, and environmental justice. Particular attention will be paid to papers that challenge popular and classical notions of the American West, revising traditional modes of expression, recovering neglected voices and/or embracing “postwestern” perspectives that go beyond established notions of the West as a fixed and settled phenomenon. Similarly, the workshop will not be limited to conventional literary texts, but it will also consider papers on other cultural and artistic manifestations, such as photography and film, with an aim of adopting primarily an interdisciplinary approach. We welcome local, regional, and national perspectives on justice, war, and peace in western American literature and culture, but we also encourage international perspectives addressing the transcultural aspects of this region and its global dimension. After all, we intend to discuss a cultural and artistic landscape that claims to be both exceptional and universal.


The maximum presentation time for papers is 20 minutes. Deadlines October 1, 2013: Proposals for workshop papers (one-page abstract [no more than 500 words] and one-paragraph bios) to reach both workshop chairs Neil Campbell   and David Rio


Call for Papers:

Affective Landscapes

May 25th / 26th 2012,

University of Derby, UK

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

– Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas Austin, author of Ordinary Affects (2007) and A Space on the Side of the Road (1996)


– Ben Highmore, University of Sussex, author of Ordinary Lives. Studies in the Everyday (2011) and Everyday Life and Cultural Theory (2002)

This conference seeks exciting disciplinary and transdisciplinary proposals from scholars working in fields such as cultural studies, literary studies, cultural politics/history, creative writing, film and media studies, Area Studies, photography, fine art, interested in examining the different ways in which human beings respond and relate to, as well as debate and interact with landscape.

In 2009, the one-day symposium ‘Land and Identity’, held at the University of Derby, brought together a diverse body of academics to discuss themes and intersections across multiple areas of research interest. This follow-up event, hosted by the Identity, Conflict and Representation Research Centre at the University of Derby in collaboration with the Centre for Studies in Literature at the University of Portsmouth, aims to develop inter-disciplinary debates around the idea of ‘Affective Landscapes’. The conference has been inspired by the work of theorists whose work examines points of intersection between ordinary life and extraordinary encounters and exchanges with the world around us. It asks how do we ‘feel’, ‘sense’, ‘know’, ‘cherish’, ‘memorise’, ‘imagine’, ‘dream’, ‘desire’, or even ‘fear’ landscapes? How do its ‘intensities’ register, flow and circulate? What forms do we use to articulate, debate and record these affects?

The Conference will include a related film screening and panel discussion to take place at the QUAD Arts Centre in Derby.

We are particularly interested in proposals examining the following:

– psychogeography

– critical regionalism

– cultural politics on identity and landscape

– national identity

– suburbia

– edgelands

– the rural / urban

– responses to landscape by creative practitioners (writers / photographers / artists / filmmakers)

– phenomenology

– the body in landscape

– Ecocriticism

– landscapes of trauma and memory

– theories of affect and landscape

Please send proposals of not more than 250 words by 16 December 2011 to

Dr. Christine Berberich at

Further details about the conference, the venue, travel, accommodation, registration etc can be found at the website:

Announcing a new website on critical regionalism

To all Western Literature Assoc members and those interested in re-thinking and challenging ideas about regions and regionalism, I am announcing a new website looking to expand and critique these concepts –

It is an open and collegial forum for exchanging and sharing ideas, essays, reviews, recommendations around the broad field known (and defined here) as Critical Regionalism. It is, as you will see, non-prescriptive as a site — but really intended as rhizomatic and open to comments and applications. 

Please join in and make the site a success.

Best wishes to all – Neil Campbell and Caleb Bailey University of Derby, UK.

The Lusty Men, Nicholas Ray (1952)

I’ve been watching and writing about a great ‘lost’ film of late; Nick Ray’s The Lusty men:
In a scene in Wim Wenders’ film Lightning Over Water (1980) at a lecture held at Vassar College, the director shows a lengthy sequence from Nicholas Ray’s 1952 film The Lusty Men. In answering questions that followed, Wenders reports Ray’s remarks as follows:

In any case, this film isn’t a Western. It’s really about people who want nothing more than a home of their own. That was actually the great American dream at the time, and all the statistical questionnaires that ask what Americans aim for, 90 per cent always gave the answer: ‘Owning a home of my own.’ And that’s what the film’s about. (OF, 119)

Ray’s point is an interesting one, since The Lusty Men isn’t a Western in any conventional sense; it’s a post-Western as I would define it, and a very good early example of this type of modern film of the New West. As Ray’s comments helpfully go on to explain, one aspect of his definition that marks it off as separate from a Western, is its engagement with contemporary social, economic and political changes. In the immediate post-war America, the time when the film is set and made, the nation sought stability and consensus, a renewal of family values, becoming epitomised in the suburban dream of owning your own home. As Ray suggests, this has been an abiding dream, and one which, I would add, has always also had a special resonance in the West where settlement and home-building was a mark of achievement and proof of the conquest of land and nature. Yet as a contrary pull the West itself seemed to demand a type of wild, rugged individualism. What The Lusty Men explores are the different ways in which concepts of home appeal to us, through memory and nostalgia as well as the desire to fix roots in a particular time and place; as places to run from as well as to.

In the opening scenes of the film – a section of which Wenders projects at the Vassar lecture in Lightning over Water – Jeff McCloud enacts a powerful journey within which, as Wenders writes, “every shot gradually becomes a sign in some sort of runic script, that you slowly see and hear”. (OF, 122) He calls Ray’s work here a “song” with its visual notes and melodies, pauses and refrains working on screen in one of the most extraordinary sequences in film history, and most certainly, for me, in establishing the post-Western. This is perhaps part of what Jacques Rivette was hinting at in his famous review of the film, “On Imagination” in Cahiers du Cinema in 1953, when he wrote of Ray’s “certain dilation of expressive detail, which ceases to be detail so that it may become part of the plot” found in “dramatic close-ups” and a “breadth of modern gesture” contributing to “an anxiety about life, a perpetual disquiet” often capturing “the feverish and impermanent” even in the “most tranquil of moments”. (in Hiller 104-5)

In the opening scenes, Ray begins, under the titles, with the razzamatazz and spectacle of the rodeo parade; with bunting, patriotic bands, Indians, cowboys, wagons and horses that invite us as an audience into the coming attraction, advertised on a screen-filling billboard as “The Wildest Show on Earth”. Immediately the film signals one of its key themes, the transformation of the West into performance and spectacle, into a perpetually self-fulfilling narrative of mythic proportions, a “wild show” acting out in the rodeo ring its stories of conquest, masculinity, and control. A counter-balance of violence emerges through the savage brahma bull ride that almost cripples Jeff McCloud, shot in naturalist style with blurred shots and point-of-view camera angles suggesting the residual brutality of the event. This is to be Jeff’s last ride, forcing him to leave the rodeo life. As he limps from the rodeo the announcer’s voice describes the next contestant quickly despatched by a bull called “Round-trip”: “He must have bought a one-way ticket”. As the camera cuts to the end of the rodeo, after the excitement of the crowd, we focus on Jeff alone, another man with a one-way ticket, walking in an extraordinary shot across the now desolate, windswept, shadowy rodeo grounds surrounded only by choking dust and swirling litter, looking forlorn like just another piece of trash abandoned after the event. The power of this shot conveys this absolute sense of after-ness, with McCloud a man out of time, resembling photographs from the Farm Security Administration by Arthur Rothstein, John Vachon or Dorothea Lange, barely holding on to the fragments of his life in the Old West. With documentary precision and a wonderful slowness, both qualities admired remember by Wenders, McCloud stands in-between that older West of certainty and masculine order and the challenges of the emerging contingent world full of the “anxiety about life” and “perpetual disquiet” that Rivette sensed in the film. As the sequence ends the camera has him leave via a gate over which is prominently hung the sign “Stock Exit”. McCloud is now damaged, limping “stock” corralled by his life in the rodeo, carrying his entire possessions in a small duffle bag over his shoulder, and with nothing else to show for his twenty years of wandering the West. Suddenly from the classical action of the rodeo with its vibrant action conveyed by dazzling camera work and almost documentary concern for detail, Ray shifts the rhythm of the film, making the audience feel the actual duration of time passing, measured in ponderous and awkward gait of McCloud as he struggles against the wind to the exit point. No past, no present, no future, he is a broken figure on the edge of a changing world he barely comprehends.

This is one of the great unseen films of the modern West – rapidly taking on great significance in my new book on the post-Western.

Has anyone seen this film?????