Julie Williams is a PhD candidate in American Literary Studies currently working on her dissertation, Embodying the West: A Literary and Cultural History of Environment, Body, and Belief. She is a 2016-2017 Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Fellow, was the inaugural recipient of the Elizabeth and George Arms American Literary Studies Research Assistantship in 2015-2016, and was awarded the Hector Torres Fellowship from the Center for Regional Studies in 2011-2012. Her work has won awards from the Western Literature Association, Feminist Research Institute, and the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association; and she has received grants from the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the Society for the Study of American Women Writers, the Modern Language Association, and UNM's Feminist Research Institute, Office of Graduate Studies, Graduate and Professional Student Association, and Career Services to support her research and conference travel.
Her scholarship has been published in The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World, American Indian Quarterly, and online in Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature. She has publications forthcoming in "Teaching Western Literature" and "The Matter of Disability," an edited collection under contract with the University of Michigan Press.
Her dissertation explores the intersection of environment, bodies, and beliefs in women’s writing about the American West from the 1880s to the present day. Taking the myth of the West as a point of departure, she analyzes literary, historical, and cultural texts about embodied experiences that challenge the narrative identity created by discourses about the West. The stories in her project create a space for and a discourse about the bodies whose experiences have not been central to cultural conceptions about the West: women with non-normative sexual and gender identities, American Indian women writers, TB patients, atomic beauty queens, and people with disabilities. By challenging the narrative identity about Western embodiment which values physical vigor, masculinity, outdoors ability, and rugged individualism, Williams’ work opens the field of Western studies to the experience of those who do not fit the traditional conception of “Western.” By expanding the narrative possibilities for embodied experience in the West to register experiences that contradict and resist normative boundaries, her project provides inroads for critics and Westerners alike to realize new perceptions of life in the West.