This conference will be focused on the question of how landscape, place, and location become a rich, problematic, contradictory subject in the cinematic Western, both in the “golden age” of the Western and since. The Western landscape has both iconic significance and daily meaning for many people, and has come to represent America as strongly as any set of images can. Our task will be to both identify and explore the existing narratives and meanings that the landscape in the cinematic Western has, and also to ask how those narratives and meanings might be altered or even subverted while the Western is retained as a genre.
Cinematic visual representations of the West have been influenced by painting, sculpture, photography and literature, and have in turn influenced all of these. These intertextual exchanges have been played out on the literal landscape, the places where homes are built, threatened, lost, and recovered, where political relationships are negotiated and inscribed on the land, where borders define self and other, friend and foe, and where physical location comes to stand in for myth, character, and identity. It is a truism that the camera’s gaze both records and creates, but in the case of the Western, the land itself has become such a romantic stereotype that it is difficult to ask new questions about it. In this conference, we nevertheless want to examine some of these questions:
• How does the landscape of the Western become meaningful, and how can it become newly meaningful?
• How do cinematic techniques and choices make some senses of the land available, while obscuring others?
• How does cinema draw on related art forms such as landscape painting, earthworks sculpture, and writing? How, for example, do painting terms such as the frame, the picturesque and the sublime, and the horizon enable our cinematic sense of the landscape? And, how does cinema take these intertextual conventions in new directions?
• How does the landscape of the West (particularly the desert) become inscribed as a place of personal and social hope and transformation?
• How do the representations of the West encode narratives, including those of being American, being male or female, being civilized, having a home, or encountering wilderness (or other forms of the “other”).
• What social, moral, political, or religious narratives or values are implicit in the Western landscape? How do these become encoded?
• How do the representations of cinematic place change in the digital age? Does the landscape of the Western change in an age when places themselves have become virtual and interchangeable?
• How might cinematic depictions of Western landscape use the complex representations in other media, as well as recent theoretical approaches to place, to re-invigorate Westerns?
This conference is intended to bring academics together with film-makers as well as people living in the historic filming locations in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Papers that not only address academic issues of the representation of landscape, but also the implementation of those representations in film and in public interpretation are especially welcome.
The academic keynote speaker for the conference is Stuart Aitken, Professor of Geography at UCSD. Other speakers will be announced on the website.
The conference will be held in Moab Utah, shooting location for many Westerns and other films. The conference is presented by the University of Central Florida's Department of Film, Department of Philosophy, and Humanities Center Initiative, and the College of Arts and Humanities. It is supported by University of Utah, Utah State University, and others, as well as the City of Moab, the township of Kanab, the Navajo Film Office.
Please submit an abstract of 200 words by March 15, 2007 to the conference email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be notified within a week of the closing date as to whether your paper has been accepted.
Conference Dates: Monday afternoon, May 21-Wednesday morning, May 23, 2007.
Dept. of Philosophy
University of Central Florida
4000 Central Florida Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32816
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