Chair of Neophilology, University of Białystok, Poland

22-24 October, Białowieża, Poland



The concept of the wild zone – originally introduced into literary studies by Elaine Showalter – can be used to demonstrate the position of the ‘muted’ groups/categories in relation to the language of the dominant majority, the language sanctioning itself as universal. The concept demonstrates how the experience of a marginalized group, which consists of the individual experiences of its members and finds its expression in this group’s dialect, is not allowed to enter the level of discourse that affects the shape and character of language of a given culture. Craig Werner suggested that instead of taking into consideration a variety of experiences, which would be characteristic of an ideal pluralistic culture, in the case of American culture seen in a historical perspective we often deal with a situation where a pseudo-universal dominant language, being essentially “the dialect of the dominant group” holding power, imposes on minority groups and their individual members its own rules of expression of experience. As a result, any kind of experience incompatible with the norms of the dominant language is recognized as wrong: trivial, unimportant, irrelevant, too narrow, abnormal, sick, not-pertaining-to-us, etc. In this way a marginalized twilight language space is constituted – the wild zone, where experience incompatible with the norm is expressed. Arguably, the official language, hostile to the extension of the space of publicly expressed experiences to include those insisting on their own integrity, generates a solipsistic culture which, by its nature, prevents the Other from entering the field of discourse.

The concept of the ‘wild zone’ was represented by Showalter graphically by intersecting circles, where X and Y stand for the dominant and muted groups’ experiences respectively: 


Inline images 1


In order to extend Showalter’s commentary on the graph, we can paraphrase-cum-quote it in the following way: Much of the muted circle, Y overlaps with the dominant circle, X. What is more important, however, is that there is a crescent of Y which is situated off limits from the dominant boundary and is therefore ‘wild’. We can perceive the ‘wild zone’ “spatially, experientially, and metaphysically.” Spatially it represents an area which is literally ‘no-one’s’-land, an unknown / forbidden space, which corresponds to the left-hand crescent in X, which is beyond the reach of the ‘muted’. Experientially it stands for the aspects of experiences which are outside of, and unlike, those of the dominant majority; again, there is a counterpart area of experience alien to the marginalized. Nevertheless, if we “think of the wild zone metaphysically, or in terms of consciousness,” there is “no corresponding space”, since all of the dominant group’s consciousness is within the circle X, and is thus representable and structured by language. Thus, the “’wild’ is always imaginary” – from the dominant point of view “it may simply be the projection of the unconscious.” However, the divisions are not static and permanent. Arguably, many previous American wild zones have become the subject of legend (i.e. the wilderness) or entered the realm of discourse otherwise, sometimes by force. 


We propose to identify/rethink a variety of American wild zones by paying attention to what areas of experience were excluded from the dominant culture, and how and why they were constituted. The existence of the marginalized and the repressed demonstrates that political, or better still ideological, criteria still determine who and what is recognized/approved of in culture. We welcome papers aiming to re-consider what may be referred to as “wild zone” communities or groups that were or – perhaps – still are, to a lesser or greater degree, excluded from “mainstream” cultural memory (literature, television, film, video and computer games). We also suggest tracing the processes of the relocations and transformations of wild zones which result in their entering the field of discourse and – by extension – in inclusion in, and shaping of, the dominant language (i.e. by moving from crescent Y to X). 


The range of critical approaches to the conference’s main issue includes, but is not limited to, the following: Ecocriticism, Feminist Criticism, Gender and Queer Studies, Marxist Studies, New Historicism, Postcolonial Criticism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, Semiotics.

We invite a wide array of papers exploring a variety of American wild zones, and confronting problems and questions such as:

  • mechanisms of establishing order(s) and hierarchies in American culture (a historical perspective); cultural “value” and “hierarchy” in historically specific situations; cultural canon(s) as cultural hegemony; marginalized ethnic minorities and their cultural “idiom”; sexual agendas and their cultural (mis)representations; 
  • the rebellious vs. the conservative; partisan political literature and film, now and in the past; the spirit of Civil Disobedience in contemporary America; ethical transgressions in American culture; debunking the myth of political correctness;
  • travelling to, invading, colonizing and appropriating “wild zones”; poaching on the territory of the Other; experiences of war against Them;
  • symbolic power in American pop culture; outside the American “habitus” – the rejection of acquired schemata, sensibilities, dispositions and tastes; subverting dominant standards of beauty and elegance; “Bartleby reactivated” – anti-consumerism in contemporary America; semiotics of cultural niches;
  • “wild zones” lost and regained – memories of, and nostalgia for, “wild zones”; American “wild zones” at present

Deadline for abstracts: July 31, 2014. Further details in March