Julie Williams is the recipient of the 2015 Louis Owens Award, a competitive prize awarded annually by the Western Literature Association. Julie’s essay “Waist High in the West: The Visual Culture of Disabilities and Western Literature,” was chosen from submissions of the WLA’s international membership. The Louis Owens Award, created to honor the American Indian writer and scholar Louis Owens, is meant to foster diversity within the Western Literature Association membership, to help broaden the field of western American literary studies, and to celebrate outstanding graduate student scholarship. The winner receives a $600 prize and recognition at the yearly conference.
Julie’s essay analyzes the issue of embodiment in western American literature, using Nancy Mairs’s collection of essays “Waist High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled” to make visible the ideals and images of able-bodied self-reliance that permeate the literature of this region. It argues that Mairs’s viewpoint of the West from “waist-high” provides a perspective that challenges notions of what constitutes western literature at the same time that it reveals what seemed so natural it often escapes notice: the able body that traverses the iconic landscape, riding, walking, and moving seemingly effortlessly through challenging environments that populate the pages of western narratives. The essay is a selection from a chapter in Julie’s dissertation, Embodying the West: A Literary and Cultural History of Environment, Body, and Belief.
For more information, see http://www.westernlit.org/