- From the Editor
It may not look like it, but yes, this is the latest issue of Western American Literature.
The new cover design is based on the art of Mary Zicafoose, a weaver from Omaha. It’s an ikat tapestry titled Prairie No. 3 from her Grassland series. In looking for imagery for the new cover, I searched thousands of online images, hoping to find a work of art that created just the right look: western but not clichéd, a mix of abstraction and representation, with a dynamic energy and compelling color scheme. When, amid the clutter that is a Google images search, I spotted Mary’s work, I knew I had found our new cover. It was pure serendipity that the artist was living less than an hour away from the new journal offices. I showed the tapestry image to the production staff at the University of Nebraska Press, who loved it and developed four cover design options. After showing the options to many of my English Department colleagues, to the journal’s editorial board, and to several graphic designers, I settled on the option you now hold in your hands. When I contacted Mary with a request to use the image, she was thrilled and graciously agreed to allow its use.
True enough that the image signals the journal’s transition from the arid mountains of Utah to the grasslands of Nebraska. But grasslands are everywhere in the North American West, indeed grass is one of the foundations of western culture, so it seems an entirely fitting and encompassing image for the place about which we do our work.
You will note, too, that in addition to the new design there is a new tagline: “A Journal of Literary, Cultural, and Place Studies.” For the most part this reflects and makes more visible the reality that has existed for many years, that this journal publishes studies not just of literary works, but of cultural productions more generally, especially, as this current issue demonstrates, of western film and tv. [End Page xi]
While the packaging of this issue is new, the content is material that has been in development for more than a year. Those of you who know anything about academic journal editing know that the production pipeline is very long indeed. This special issue was initially developed by Melody Graulich and Susan Bernardin long before I became involved. (In fact the next two issues will consist mainly of essays that Melody accepted.)
I am grateful that Susan, along with the other contributors to this volume, John Gamber, Joanna Hearne, and Scott Andrews, allowed themselves to be the trial subjects for the new editorial process. I trust the experience wasn’t too painful and that they have not suffered any debilitating side effects.
As is well known, there was some question as to whether this issue, 49.1, would ever come into being. With the need to depart the journal’s longtime home in Logan, the future of wal was in doubt. And face it, with the decline in funding, especially for the humanities, most universities are more typically reducing rather than increasing their support for humanities-related journals. I am exceedingly grateful that David Manderscheid, then dean of the University of Nebraska’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Susan Belasco, chair of the English Department, agreed to commit resources to the support of wal. When Rick Edwards, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies, agreed to provide office space and staff support, it became clear to me that wal had found a supportive new home.
It is also essential to thank Manjit Kaur, journals manager at the University of Nebraska Press, for agreeing to take on the production and distribution of wal. And of course none of this would have happened without the work of the wal transition team: Bill Handley, Nancy Cook, and Bob Thacker. Last, but not least, the good-spirited support of Melody Graulich and Sabine Barcatta was crucial to the success of the transition.
A journal like this doesn’t exist without the help, often invisible and too rarely acknowledged, of many people. Once in a while...