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2015 Abstracts

Bold Talk for a One-Eyed Fat Man: The Importance of Classic Western Literature in the Contemporary Classroom

Are classic, young-adult novels set in the American west a dead genre in the American classroom? Despite its historical impact on popular culture, young-adult novels set in the American west have seen a considerable decline in relevance in American public schools. While classic young-adult literature receiving heavy rotation in current young-adult classrooms, as well as young-adult literature published in the current century, may have its place, Western, young-adult literature published in the 1960’s and 1970’s should still be read, taught, critiqued and celebrated. The general argument against including western, young-adult literature on the reading lists of public schools in the western states, where, arguably they should be the most prevalent, is that the texts are significantly passé and therefore not relevant to contemporary secondary students. While the majority of criticism in favor of western literature is also dated, this paper makes the argument that although the texts and various criticisms may seem behind the times, it should also be taken into account that present-day society is remarkably similar to society when the texts were initially published. Interestingly, not only is present-day society similar to society in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, but a recent interest in regionalism as opposed to vast commercialism also seems to be making an impact on society. By presenting literature that draws attention to the history of a local area, a literary gap created by an interest in who we were as a society and where we came from may be filled. The research conducted takes the classic, western, young-adult novel, True Grit by Charles Portis and that text with a more popular and more contemporary novel, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It’s through this comparison we are able to appreciate and understand the relevance of classic Western literature in the contemporary classroom.