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The Old West Meets the Undead: PCA/ACA Call for Papers

CaptainHookThe combination of certain genres don’t work for me. In this case the Old West connecting with horror, specifically in the form of cowboys combined with zombies, vampires, and other horror icons, but apparently they work for some people and have become the focus of academic consideration. Following is a call for papers from the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association on the topic:

Call for Papers: Undead in the West
PCA/ACA National Conference
March 31-April 3, 2010
St. Louis, Missouri
Deadline: December 1, 2009

Co-presenters are being sought for a panel on the “Undead in the West,” as part of the Westerns and the West area at the PCAs.

The frontier has long been framed as a landscape of life and death, but few scholarly works have ventured into the realm where the two become one, to explore portrayals of the Undead in the West – the zombies, vampires, mummies, and others that have lumbered, crept, shambled, and swooped into the Western from other genres. This sub-genre, while largely a post-1990 phenomenon, traces it roots to much deeper hybrid traditions of Westerns and horror or science fiction, and yet, shows ties to the recent A-Western renaissance. What happens when traditional frontier figures, settings, symbols, and ideologies encounter these characters that defy the laws of nature? How are Western archetypes subverted or accentuated when confronted by the undead? How do zombies, vampires, and the like, affect our understandings and interpretations of the West, and vice-versa?

Might these hybrid Westerns function as the new anti-western, or do the undead facilitate a return to tradition?

Other possible issues include, bur are not limited to:

– Do vampires and zombies map on to traditional Western “bad guys,” such as Indians, Mexicans, and outlaws? Have zombies become a “safe” substitute for Indians as aliens have for foreign soldiers in stories of war and invasion?

– How do the conventions of the Western intersect with the conventions of the Undead movie . . . Do the movies play with either set of conventions for dramatic effect (James Woods’ character Jack Crow as a vampire-hunting version of Clint Eastwood’s amoral Western avengers) or comic relief (the zombie sheriff and prostitute in Deadwalkers)?

– Do undead Westerns consciously use the Undead elements of the plot to comment on the nature of traditional Western heroes and villains?

These questions and more may be asked of films of the Old West, or the new, such as Bubba Ho-tep (2002), when a Stetson-wearing mummy menaces a nursing home in the East Texas backwater; From Dusk ‘til Dawn (1996), when vampires prey on unsuspecting patrons of a Mexican bar; It Came From the West (2007), the puppet zombie Western from Denmark; or Purgatory (1999), where the frontier town of Refuge serves as liminal space between
heaven and hell; and numerous other tales of the Undead in the West.

Papers presented in “Undead in the West” at the PCAs may also be considered for a larger post-conference project.

Please send your 250-350- word abstract to both co-organizers, Cindy Miller (cymiller@tiac.net) and Bow Van Riper (bvanriper@bellsouth.net). Deadline for submissions is December 1, 2009.

Cynthia Miller
cymiller@tiac.net

Art accompanying this post by Richard Pince.

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There are 1 Comments to "The Old West Meets the Undead: PCA/ACA Call for Papers"

  • Cory Gross says:

    Interesting… I love Weird West stories myself, but I didn’t think there were enough of them to hold an academic conference yet. Maybe because I wasn’t including “New West” stuff in the category. To me, John Carpenter’s Vampires was just a bad action movie. I’m totally looking forward to Jonah Hex and Cowboys and Aliens though!

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