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Three Department of English faculty and a student announce extraordinary new work responding to the challenges, conflicts, contradictions, and crises of 2020. Recent and forthcoming titles include an intervention by environmental humanists toward curing a “syndemic,” a poetry micro-chapbook with donations to Black Lives Matter, an edition excavating the reality-bending hybrid Western, and a literary journal issue responding to a crisis in American leadership.
With Steven Hartman, Greta Gaard, and Serpil Oppermann, Joni Adamson co-edited this journal special issue themed “The New Normal?” From the editors’ introduction, titled, “Through the Portal of COVID-19: Visioning the Environmental Humanities as a Community of Purpose”:
The current theme of Bifrost Online features an open letter co-authored and signed by many leading voices from the environmental humanities (EH), as well as some allied social scientists and activists, in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of the letter’s signatories have also been invited to contribute short companion essays reflecting further on perspectives that may not have found their way into the letter, or that may even have fallen out of it during the dynamic process of its composition. …
The open letter is a vital call to the environmental humanities community to respond to the challenges of the novel coronavirus, a dangerous microorganism that “carries the message of our interbeing—across bodies, species, continents.” As it travels throughout the world, this virus is also live-streaming dire truths about the many different human conditions and contagions to which societies have become inured, from interspecies tragedies and the disproportionate injustices of gender, race and ethnicity to the inequitable slow violence of climate change and industrial environmental poisoning.
Adamson is President’s Professor of English in environmental humanities and literature at ASU.
This micro-chapbook is a part of the 2020 Ghost City Press Summer Micro-Chap Series. All donations made for this title will go directly to Black Lives Matter.
Davis is an undergraduate student majoring in English (creative writing) at ASU.
Weird Westerns is an exploration of the hybrid western genre—an increasingly popular and visible form that mixes western themes, iconography, settings, and conventions with elements drawn from other genres, such as science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Despite frequent declarations of the western’s death, the genre is now defined in part by its zombie-like ability to survive in American popular culture in weird, reanimated, and reassembled forms.
The essays in Weird Westerns analyze a wide range of texts, including those by Native American authors Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet) and William Sanders (Cherokee); the cult television series Firefly and The Walking Dead; the mainstream feature films Suicide Squad and Django Unchained; the avant-garde and bizarre fiction of Joe R. Lansdale; the tabletop roleplaying game Deadlands: The Weird West; and the comic book series Wynonna Earp.
The essays explore how these weird westerns challenge conventional representations by destabilizing or subverting the centrality of the heterosexual, white, male hero but also often surprisingly reinforce existing paradigms in their inability to imagine an existence outside of colonial frameworks.
Fine is an instructor for Writing Programs in the Department of English at ASU.
Kathleen Hicks is an associate editor of this authorized publication by Penn State University Press centered on the life and works of American novelist John Steinbeck (1902-1968). From this issue’s editors’ introduction by Hicks and Barbara A. Heavilin, titled, "’We are the jury’: Steinbeck's America under Threat”:
John Steinbeck loved his country with an abiding passion that permeates his finest fiction—The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, The Winter of Our Discontent. And the very titles of his nonfiction works of the 1960s—Travels with Charley in Search of America and America and Americans—speak of that consuming focus on his country. In the foreword to the latter work, he avows that it has been "informed by America, and inspired by curiosity, impatience, some anger, and a passionate love of America and the Americans." From the heart, he writes that his country is "unspeakably dear and very beautiful" (317–18). Recognizing Steinbeck's passion, early critic Harry Thornton Moore dubbed him "the poet of our dispossessed" (72). Such a role and task Steinbeck delineates for himself in his "Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech": "The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging to light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement." …
John Steinbeck's America—our America—is under threat. As Steinbeck foresaw it might be, it has all come down to us, the American people. It is now up to us to fulfill his expectations and bear the burden well. For now we must all answer the call to be light-bearers for our own time, leading the way toward justice, truth, and right, lest the lights go out on our democracy as we know it. For now is our moment. We are the jury.
Hicks is director of online programs for the Department of English at ASU.