Spurgeon, Sara L. 1964- (Sara Louise Spurgeon)

views updated

Spurgeon, Sara L. 1964- (Sara Louise Spurgeon)

PERSONAL:

Born January 20, 1964, in Topeka, KS; daughter of Leland (an attorney) and Colleen (a homemaker) Spurgeon; married Gregory Roberts (an information technology specialist), August 6, 1995; children: Seth E.S., Ian M.S. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: College of St. Catherine, B.A., 1987; University of New Mexico, M.A., 1993; University of Arizona, Ph.D., 2000. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Running, hiking, wine tasting, cooking, interior design.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Lubbock, TX. Office—Department of English, Texas Tech University, MS43091, Lubbock, TX 79409. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Hamline University, St. Paul, MN, assistant director of career services for School of Law, 1988-91; Professional Associates International, Tucson, AZ, technical editor, 1994-95; University of Arizona, Tucson, visiting assistant professor of women's studies, 2000-05; Texas Tech University, Lubbock, assistant professor of literatures of the American Southwest, 2005—. SafeZone (organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people), counselor and training facilitator.

MEMBER:

Modern Language Association of America, Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, Western Literature Association (member of executive council, 2005—).

AWARDS, HONORS:

D.H. Lawrence Prize in short fiction, University of New Mexico, 1993, for "Riverman."

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with David K. Dunaway) Writing the Southwest, Plume (New York, NY), 1995, revised edition, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2003.

Ana Castillo, Boise State University Press (Boise, ID), 2004.

Exploding the Western: Myths of Empire on the Postmodern Frontier, Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 2005.

Coauthor of "Joy Harjo," an episode of the radio documentary series Writing the Southwest, broadcast by public radio stations, 1996. Contributor to books, including Bloom's Modern Critical Views: Cormac McCarthy, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers (New York, NY), 2001; and Cormac McCarthy: New Visions, edited by James Lilley, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2002; fiction represented in anthologies, including Side Show, edited by Anderson, Jacobs, and Stolz, Somersault Press (El Cerrito, CA), 1991; and Paradise, edited by Childrey, Sink, and Meece, Florida Literary Foundation Press (Sarasota, FL), 1993. Contributor of articles and short stories to scholarly journals and literary magazines, including Western American Literature, Bridge: Journal of Fiction and Poetry, Hudson ValleyEchoes: National Journal of Prose and Poetry, and Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment. Member of editorial board, Western American Literature, 2003—.

SIDELIGHTS:

Sara L. Spurgeon told CA: "I didn't start out knowing I wanted to write about Western literature. In a way, the process of discovering that I do has been a journey returning me full-circle to my childhood.

"I'm from Kansas. I grew up in Topeka in a fairly privileged, white, middle-class household. My father was an attorney, but also an amateur naturalist and Western historian. In our house, the family room was dedicated to my father's Western pioneer-era antiques. (My mother's eighteenth-century English pieces ruled the dining room.) As a child I would stare, awestruck, at the huge wooden ox yoke hung on our family room wall, dwarfing our sofa. That yoke, my father told me, had pulled covered wagons across the Western prairies, maybe even through our backyard. When I was sure I wouldn't be caught, I would climb onto the back of the sofa and reverently stroke the saddles, bridles, and fancy spurs chased with silver that hung above my head. On the mantle, high over the fireplace and tragically out of my reach, was mounted an enormous set of horns off the last longhorn on my father's family ranch.

"My father's stories about the antics of that bull, Killer, were among my childhood favorites. My mother grew up on a tiny, windswept North Dakota farm without indoor plumbing, and she resolutely refused nostalgia for any aspect of rural life. Nonetheless, we regularly visited Dodge City and Abilene, the tallgrass prairies of the Flint Hills and the oil fields of western Kansas, where we wandered for hours, squinting myopically at the dusty ground, searching for fossils and arrowheads. My father even bought tickets for my brothers and me on the last passenger run of the old Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe rail line.

"Still, by the rime I was a teenager, I'd become hugely embarrassed by my family's rural roots, and I was eager to immerse myself in what I imagined to be a vastly more sophisticated, urban world of intellectual elevation, far removed from the vaguely cornball, dime-novel image I had constructed of the West. So when I began studying and writing about literature, I had no real interest in Western works. I soon found, however, that the issues I wanted to explore stubbornly drew me again and again to this region. I was fascinated by the power of landscape and human relations with nature—and there was Ed Abbey and John Muir, Mary Hunter Austin and Terry Tempest Williams; issues of hybridity, liminality, and postcolonialism—and there was Gloria Anzaldúa and Simon Ortíz and Rudolfo Anaya; problems of representation, history, encounters between multiple cultures and races—and there was James Fenimore Cooper and Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Cormac McCarthy.

"The next logical question for me to ask was why? Why should these issues continually lead me West? Why did all these writers consider themselves, or are considered by others, Western writers? What makes a writer regional? Is an author who writes from the West any different from a New England regionalist or a Southern regionalist? And where, or what, exactly, is the West?

"One conclusion I reached is that what is for me a journey back to my origins, back to my father's tales about farming and ranching on the Kansas prairies, my mother's and grandmother's stories about growing up next to the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota, is also a journey back to the origin stories of modern America. Stories of the frontier—that is, a meeting place between two or more cultures, be they Anglo, Indian, Hispanic, or any other of the myriad groups that have come together in the United States—have become the founding myth of this country. Even more than the Revolutionary War or the Declaration of Independence, stories about frontiers tell us who we are and what we might become.

"Today, that set of longhorns hangs on my living room wall. Below it, in a hand-carved cedar box, rests a flint knife knapped by my Creek/Muskogee father-in-law and given to my husband and me as a wedding gift. The tension between those two items, of their competing, contradictory, violently intertwined histories, reminds me daily of both the richness and horror of what scholar Patricia Limerick called ‘the legacy of conquest’ that has shaped the American West. My passion as a writer and scholar is to explore this legacy, to trace its roots backward in time, map its branchings in the present, and speculate on what forms it may take in the future.

"I am interested in exploring the ways in which twentieth-century American nature writers creatively re-imagine the natural world and themselves in it. How do they capture in language the physicality of their experiences in the various environments they engage? How is the complexity of a relationship forged through sight and sound, sweat and touch, ecstasy and sometimes terror, transformed into a working manuscript? What sorts of epistemologies guide their rhetorical choices? I foresee my work as a book-length project, with chapters on Barry Lopez, Gretel Ehrlich, William Kittredge, Annick Smith, Rick Bass, and others.

"I recently wrote an essay on bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism in the character of Mina, found in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film on Dracula, and Stephen Sommers's 2004 film Van Helsing. Though this work may seem unrelated to my primary area of concentration in Western American literature, I find that deliberately immersing myself in the occasional project outside my comfort zone forces me to be flexible as a scholar and at the same time provides me with a wealth of new directions from which to approach texts and ideas in my chosen field. In the case of my Dracula essay, the thinking I've done on psychoanalytic theory, identity formation, and the role of empire in shaping, maintaining, and deploying notions of race, gender, class, and sexuality sparked me to explore these issues as they occur in the Americas through an edited collection of essays. In this book I hope to bring together essays examining the construction of gendered identities and sexualities in literature and film dealing with frontier situations as those spaces have historically crisscrossed the Americas, from the frontiers of colonial New England to the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. My vision is for a collection that will include texts interrogating the history of conquest and colonization and the relationships engendered by empire in shaping notions of gender and sexuality in the works of Anglo, Native American, Chicano/a, Asian, and African Americans as they imagine themselves and are imagined by others in film and literature."