19 September 2007

Problematizing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Prof. Waller Hastings has issued this call for mini-papers to be presented at a special session of the Children’s Literature Association conference in Bloomington, Illinois, on 12-15 June 2008. (This is not Bloomington, Indiana, site of the Oz Club's centenary conference.)

Interrogations of Oz

Proposals for short papers problematizing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are solicited for an experimental session at the Children’s Literature Association. Rather than fully developed papers presenting an argument about the text, this call seeks short presentations (5-10 minutes maximum) that lay out a question or problem about the text. These short working papers should elicit contributions from attendees at the session, generating a collective examination of the points that are raised.

The idea is to develop a different sort of conference session where problematics of a text are worked out collectively by presenters and attendees.

Please send proposals by December 10, 2007, to:
A. Waller Hastings
Visiting Professor, LIS
School of Communications, Information and Library Studies
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
4 Huntington Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1071
Prof. Hastings's home website at Northern State University does the valuable service of sharing L. Frank Baum's editorial comments on the Sioux from 1890-91. These certainly present a problem for fans who wish to see Baum as gentle-hearted at all times and in all aspects of life. At the same time, far more people have probably read those words on the web than saw them in Baum's failing weekly newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. (See my earlier Oz and Ends thoughts on those editorials.)


Blair Frodelius said...

Re-reading Baum's Sitting Bull editorials just now, I wonder if he was using Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" ironic style. He seems rather sympathetic to the native Americans.

J. L. Bell said...

That's a theory many people have put forward. The weakness in it, I think, is that when people in Aberdeen took the first comments seriously and criticized them, Baum affirmed and amplified them. No one at the time apparently felt he was kidding. At the very least, Baum didn't show Swift's skill at gradually building the argument.

The editorials' mix of admiration for Sitting Bull and other dead Indians with disdain for living Indians was fairly common in 19th-century America. The notion of Native Americans as a "dying race" was very widespread, though these items are unusual in saying that the dying-off process should be artificially accelerated.