CFP: Visual Depictions of the American West – How the West Was Drawn and What It Showed Us

University Ca' Foscari of Venice
Venezia VE, Italy
November 16-20, 2020
Stichtag: 24.02.2020

The American West has been depicted for decades through comic books and graphic novels, including by many authors living outside the U.S. Some of the most famous titles and artists are the Tex Willer series (Tex) by Giovanni Luigi Bonelli and Aurelio Galleppini, Blueberry by Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean Giraud, Bessy and Buffalo Bill, two Flemish titles published through the Belgian Vandersteen publishing company, and Jerry Spring by Joseph Gillain, all published in the decades following World War II. Even Louis L’Amour’s Western novels have been retold through a recent collection entitled Law of the Desert Born. Significantly, more contemporary comic and graphic novel titles and authors, rather than romanticizing the U.S.’s western past, depict the history of its colonization and the use of race as an ideological vector. Notably, Native American graphic novelists and comic book creators are part of this emerging new literary wave, telling stories of history, conflict, resistance, and activism from a perspective that has been long overlooked—and overdue.

This conference stems from the need to explore the various ways the American West has been depicted in comics/graphic novel form across the years and different countries. We want to pay particular attention to comparative approaches that address American (Zane Gray, James Oliver Curwood, Jack London et alii) and European (Emilio Salgari, Luigi Motta et alii) popular literature, which serve as both visual rewriting formulas and forms of neuro-narratological itinerary. We will take into particular consideration projects that explore the intersection between heterogeneous languages, or between cinema/audiovisual works and popular/auteur comics, as a means of recoding the Western genre. In particular, we invite scholars to offer special attention to rewritings, to parodies and satirical representations, as well as to Latin American production (from the Cangaçeiros to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and beyond). Finally, given the U.S.’s recent policies with regard to immigrants at its southern borders, we find titles such as Duncan Tonatiuh’s Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight or Alberto Ledesma’s Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer to be especially relevant.

In sum, we welcome presentations that explore topics such as, but are not limited to:

  • the significance of landscapes versus borders;
  • open sky versus fences;
  • Westward expansion, the imposition on native populations and the institution of reservations;
  • the role of commerce and industry in socio-political conflicts or with regard to environmental and wildlife issues;
  • bilateral challenges to stereotypes, with particular attention to those related to non-white peoples;
  • intersemiotic translations and adaptations of West stories;
  • translated, adapted and transcreated stories;
  • epic and traditional stories;
  • fictionalized stories of historical people;
  • comics and audiovisual Western stories in the world; and
  • Western schemes in alternative times and geographical spaces (eg. Austral Africa, Australia, Siberia, South Italy).

The official programme will include seminars of one or two monolingual sessions of 90 minutes each. We recommend 4 papers per session (seminars of fewer than 3 and more than 5 presentations per session are not permitted) to allow sufficient time for discussion.

There is a two-step selection process.

1. Seminar organizers must send proposals of up to 2000 characters including spaces to the e-mail address, indicating name, e-mail address and affiliation of all the organizers, at least one of whom must be faculty member. The period for seminar proposals submission ends at 11:59 pm CET on Monday 24 February 2020.

2. The list of admitted seminars will be published on the conference website on Tuesday 10 March 2020. The terms for paper proposals submission will open on the same day and will close at 11:59 pm CET on Monday 30 March 2020. The abstracts must be sent by e-mail to, copying in the seminar organizers. The online publication of the seminar list complete of admitted interventions is scheduled for Monday 20 April 2020.

Scholars who intend to participate in a seminar in particular are invited to be in touch with the relevant organizers in the period 10 – 30 March 2020.

Seminar and paper proposals must be written in one of the official languages of the conference, which are English, Italian, Spanish and French.

Contact Info:

Organizers‘ contact:
For Laboratorio per lo Studio Letterario del Fumetto: Alessandro Scarsella –
For ICLA Research Committee on Comics Studies and Graphic Narrative: Angelo Piepoli –

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