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R e s e a r c h i n W e s t e r n A m e r i c a n L I T E R A T U R E : 1 9 9 9 - 2 0 0 0 J a n R o u s h What a difference a year makes. Last year I was writing to extol the vital­ ity of research in western American literature, noting especially the tremen­ dous growth in the field of nearly twelve times the yearly output ofstudies since the WLA began; this year I find that the output has dropped off by nearly a hundred, and I am hard-pressed to determine why. The research is still inter­ disciplinary in nature, reflecting both breadth and depth in subjects that focus on many aspects of the West. To try to make some sense of what is happening, Idecided to plug the numbers into the chart I devised last year to illustrate how interdisciplinary research in the field has become. The results, as displayed below, are interesting. RESEARCH COMPARISON PER DISCIPLINE: 1 9 9 9 /2 0 0 0 Discipline M .A. 1999 M .A. 2000 Ph.D. 1999 Ph.D. : American Literature 7 18 84 41 American Studies 5 8 3 Anthropology/Archaeology 3 2 Art History 3 7 2 2 Canadian History 2 2 Canadian Literature 7 1 Canadian Studies 3 Cinema 3 1 Comparative Literature 1 1 9 2 Cultural Anthropology 6 5 20 6 Dance 1 Fine Arts 1 Geography 2 1 1 Linguistics 2 3 1 1 Mass Communications 1 Modern Literature 3 2 5 Music 1 1 Rhetoric and Composition 3 1 Theater 2 1 3 U.S. History 7 16 48 15 Women’s Studies 2 1 J a n Ro u s h 4 5 3 Traditionally, the subject areas that generate the most studies about the West are American literature and U.S. history. Yet, it is these subject areas that fell off the most, about two-thirds and one-half as many, respectively. The research generally follows the trends I have noted before: increasing emphasis in interdisciplinary studies with a heavy preponderance of Native American topics—over sixty different studies this year ranging from analyses of individual authors to issues having to do with assimilation and hybridity. Distant seconds included topics concerning wilderness, landscape and travel/nature writ­ ing, gender, “others” (Chicano/a, Asian American, mulattos). It is perhaps this emphasis on “other” that leads to an examination of identity in so many forms: performance and identity, theatricality and identity, food and identity, dance and identity, yielding such interesting titles as “Tucson Eat Yourself: Food, Ethnicity, and the Substantiation of Identity”; “Dancing Identity: Gwich’in Indigenous Dance as Articulation of Identity”; or “Mutton in the Melting Pot: Food as Symbols of Communication Reflecting, Transmitting, and Creating Cultural Identity among Urban Navajos.” Closely related are studies redefining frontiers or borders such as “Life on the Border: Cyberspace and the Frontier in Historical Perspective.” New this year are themes of domesticity or family, enough of them to rate noting their existence, many focused on mother-daughter or father-son relationships in works by individual authors, as in “Matrilineaology: MotherDaughter Relationships in Contemporary Fiction,” which examines such rela­ tionships inLouise Erdrich’s BeetQueen and Amy Tan’sJoy Luck Club. One other new item deserves a footnote, though there is not yet enough information to determine what direction it is going: an interest in narrative structure—the use of silences or narrative versus fiction. This year, the only individual author to stand out significantly was Willa Cather, with fourteen studies examining various aspects of her works. The next closest was Louise Erdrich, who generated six studies. More significant were the sheer numbers and varieties of individual authors mentioned, many, like Edna Ferber or Mary Crow Dog, rarely ever studied. Of these studies concern­ ing individual authors, most explore contemporary authors and many examine topics that have come to dominate western American literature, notably issues pertaining to ethnicity and identity or nature and the environment. Also notable was the number of studies concerning authors found on bestseller lists around the country: Tony Hillerman, TomRobbins...


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