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F r o m t h e A c t in g E d it o r S t e p h e n T a t u m Influenced by feminist history, multiculturalism, and post' colonial theory, historians and literary critics have begun to look for new paradigms and begun to question this static construction of “the West.” — Mary Pat Brady, “Scaling the W est Differently” The titles of panels and plenary sessions at recent Western Litera­ ture Association (WLA) annual meetings alone provide striking evi­ dence of the accuracy of Mary Pat Brady’s above claim, which appears in her essay review in this issue of Western American Literature (WAL) devoted to emergent texts of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project. “Refiguring”; “Reconfigurations”; “Revisiting”; “Re­ considering”; “Rewriting”; “Re-imagining(s)”; “Re-evaluating”; “New Perspectives”; “Expanding the Canon”; “Liminal Borderlands”; “Pacific Crossings”: such words and phrases populate the WLA conference pro­ grams from 1993 through 1999, where at the recent meeting in Sacramento two panels convened under the title “Recovering a Mexican American West,” while another panel met under the title “North from Mexico: Chicana/o Literature and Theory.” And as this last panel title particularly suggests, that western American writing might also be regarded as norteno writing, or that the borderlands of the Southwest and del norte might be seen as a synecdoche for “western” writing, raises fascinating questions about the construction of regional identity, its link not only with particular topographies but also its inter­ section with mobile cultural constructions of gender, race and ethnic­ ity, class, and religious affiliations. Perhaps no better exemplar of the “mobile” nature of such constructions exists, at least in shorthand form, than the linguistic transition from “Remember the Alamo” to the phrase uttered by actor Elizabeth Pena at the conclusion of director John Sayles’s recent film Lone Star: “Forget the Alamo.” Between its founding in 1966 and its 1985 meeting in Fort Worth, the W LA— at least in terms of scholarship and conference sessions— paid only sporadic attention to Hispanic colonial literature, Mexican American writing, Chicano/a writing. The reasons for this develop­ ment (or lack thereof) are not hard to understand: in its formative years, the W LA membership was necessarily engaged in recovering f r o m t h e A c t in g E d it o r and defining a canon of writing under the sign of the region and in relation to a national literary tradition; the moment of the WLA’s founding and early years was also the moment when organizations devoted to minority literatures in the United States were formed and when the study of such literatures was being promoted largely by the equally new institutions of ethnic (and women’s) studies programs; scholars interested in Mexican American and Chicano/a writing were often located in Spanish, not English, departments. In retrospect, the 1985 meeting in Fort Worth is particularly notable because that year Américo Paredes received the WLA’s Distinguished Achievement Award. But as I look over that meeting’s program, I also see interest' ingly juxtaposed “A Symposium on Texas Mexican Writing,” which included such luminaries as Rolando Hinojosa and Ramón Saldivar, and a “Symposium on the Cowboy in Literature,” which included the well'known writers Elmer Kelton and Benjamin Capps. Here, so it seems to me now, we begin to see the emergence of a new paradigm conceiving of “the West” as a contact zone, a borderlands (which of course also includes “the medicine line” between Canada and the United States), a topography of transitions instead of a stable place. In any case, ever since the organization’s 1990 meeting in Denton, Texas, its members’ scholarship and conference presentations have increasingly attended to borderlands writing (in addition to the already established attention to American Indian writing). Throughout the 1990s, plenary panels on Chicano/a writing and scholarship occur at the meetings in Denton, Wichita, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and— as I mentioned above— Sacramento. Publications and conference papers on such writers as Sandra Cisneros, Rolando Hinojosa, Américo Paredes, and Jimmy Santiago Baca appear regularly in venues under the headings not only of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 2-4
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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