Hosted by The University of New Mexico, March 22-25, 2018
URGENT: proposal deadline extension to SEPTEMBER 30 because of hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Jose.
C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists seeks paper and panel submissions for its fifth biennial conference, which will take place March 22-25, 2018 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. We invite individual paper or group proposals on U.S. literary culture—broadly conceived—during the long nineteenth century.
The fifth biennial C19 conference welcomes readings of the capacious meanings of “Climate,” from meteorology to metaphor, ecocriticism to racial justice. Thinking about climate within the context of the long nineteenth century might allow for new modes of approach to such issues as the human, nonhuman, or posthuman; ethnicity; gender; sexuality; race; class; colonialism; land use; labor; aging; religion; enclosure; agriculture; food; subject/object relations; geological or deep time; energy; extinction; or institutions.
The nineteenth century witnessed the coinage of such terms as “ecology” and “climatology,” and it grappled with questions of agency and environment by asking whether human behavior had a collective impact on climate, or whether climate shaped human temperament and culture. For some, climate possessed an explanatory power to justify racial difference as well as differences in character and nationality. Climate could also go beyond the environmental to refer to a general aesthetic sense of atmosphere, mood, and opinion. To what extent is the term a euphemism for culture? How and when has the term been used to think against or beyond culture? Was climate invoked to articulate national and regional distinctions within a comparative framework or did it offer ways to think beyond the nation-state toward a transnational model? “Climate” has a special urgency in our present moment of anthropogenic climate change and resource depletion, crises producing monumental political and social uncertainties. The late-eighteenth-century advent of industrialization is one proposed marker of the beginning of the anthropocene (or the epoch of measurable human geological impact on the earth), and thus the urgency of “Climate” today is simultaneously a nineteenth-century topic, as well.
The conference theme of “Climate” invites us to explore the term’s various layers of signification from its meteorological relation to weather, atmosphere, and storms to its metaphoric association with mood, variability, and time. In our own highly contested political climate when environmental, social, economic and racial justice represents an ongoing struggle, what does it mean to explore the climates of the nineteenth century?
To submit a proposal for the 2018 conference, go to: c19conference2018.exordo.com/.
C19 welcomes proposals for roundtables, workshops, dialogues, and novel presentation formats, as well as traditional panels and individual paper submissions. We are especially interested in proposals that reflect a diversity of institutional affiliation, academic rank, and disciplinary background. Please include at least four presenters on a panel, one of whom might be a respondent. All group proposals must leave time for discussion (each session is 90 minutes long). Individuals seeking potential collaborators may wish to use the C19 listserv, the discussion board on C19’s Facebook page, or via Twitter using the #C19Am hashtag or by tagging @C19Americanists.
C19: 2018 will once again feature a series of seminars, which were introduced at the 2014 conference in Chapel Hill. Seminars will provide participants the opportunity for a collaborative conversation around a particular topic. Each seminar will be capped at 15 participants and will be run by leaders with expertise in the topic. Each participant will submit a five-page position paper before the conference to be read in advance by the other participants; time in the seminar itself will be reserved for discussion. Seminar participants will be listed in the program. Participation as both a presenter and seminar participant will be allowed only as space permits. Topics and seminar leaders are listed on the “Seminars” tab.
Conference participants are limited to one appearance on the program in a substantive role (presenter, roundtable participant, or respondent), and one appearance as a session organizer, chair, seminar participant, or speaker/facilitator on a professional support session. Please submit only one proposal for a substantive role.
To submit a proposal for the 2018 conference, go to: c19conference2018.exordo.com/.
- The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2017.
- Queries about the Conference Program should be addressed to Program Chair, Carrie Tirado Bramen: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are organizing a session and are looking for additional panelists, please consider emailing your CFP to C19cfp@gmail.com.
CFPs for Individual Panels
Ecologies of the Mind in C19 America
What makes it possible to be mad in a particular way in a certain time and place? Moving past the “real” versus “socially constructed” binary, Ian Hacking offers the generative metaphor of the “ecological niche” for mental disorder: the particular convergence of medical, political, and geographic factors that render a mental disorder conceivable within a specific culture at a certain time. Yet, in the nineteenth-century, this idea would hardly have scanned as metaphor. Physicians, novelists, and laypersons alike imagined a true ecology of madness, taking for granted the impact of environment and climate on mental health. Professionals theorized a uniquely American mind drawn from uniquely American ecologies, exploring and narrating etiologies of its growth and fracture.
We seek papers that interrogate the intersection between environmental and mental science in the nineteenth century. We welcome papers from disciplines throughout the humanities which think through the “ecological niches” for mental disorder in the nineteenth century in either its original spirit as metaphor, and/or in the more literal sense suggested by nineteenth century thinkers.
What kinds of environments (physical or ideological) encouraged certain kinds of madness to flourish in nineteenth-century America?
How did climate and environmental science impact the science of the mind and vice versa?
How did literary representations of mental disorder influence the legal, social, or moral climate around mental illness? How did new conceptions of mental disorder expand possibilities for narrative form?
To what extent was climate a metaphorical or an actual component of mental health?
How did a focus on environment impact the proposed etiology or treatment of mental illness?
How were discourses of health used to render certain climates moral or immoral in the national imagination? How were discourses of climate used to justify the marginalization of certain minds?
In what ways did changes in agricultural or environmental science change the pharmacological response to mental disorder?
In what ways were environmental disasters or pollutants conceived of as threats to mental flourishing?
Please address a 300-word abstract on any of the themes and questions mentioned above along with a short CV to Jessica Horvath Williams (email@example.com) and Lindsey Grubbs (firstname.lastname@example.org) by August 28th.
Situating Race & Climate in C19 & Its Aftermath
This panel addresses 19th-century theories of race and climate, both in the historical moment of the 19th-century and in its persisting cultural aftermath. How did theories of race and the environment merge or conflict with one another? In which ways did enslaved individuals make use of their climate/environment? What kinds of racial and climatological legacies endure into later periods, especially in accounts of evolution and natural history, or in environmental racism? What are the material or cultural residues of 19th-century theories of race and climate? How do these issues intersect with other meanings of climate, including political climate? We welcome submissions from scholars across disciplines working on issues from natural history to marronage, material texts to site-specific case studies, among other topics.
C19 in the Classic Hollywood Imaginary
This panel will explore Hollywood’s phantasmagoric C19 through the double-consciousness of the late 1930s and early 1940s, as economic depression opened onto to a climate of international fascism, genocide and world war. How did the 19th century come to signify the ideologies, dreams, and anxieties of an American culture on the brink? This historical precipice enabled what arguably is Hollywood’s richest creative period. With the Great Depression and the advent of sound cinema, through the end of the Second World War, Classic Hollywood imagined the 19th-century through an explosion of genres. This session focuses on the historical biopic (featuring John Brown as villain in The Santa Fe Trail); the proto-Civil War melodrama (Bette Davis’s Jezebel); and settler colonial conquest (in John Ford’s Stagecoach), to suggest several powerful examples. Papers will open a conversation about how the 19thc functioned in the classic Hollywood imaginary. Proposals featuring women’s pictures, westerns, gothics, and biopics encouraged; and work on films featuring Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, or Olivia De Havilland is encouraged particularly.
Please send abstracts of 150-200 words by August 1 to Julia Stern at email@example.com.
Beyond Circulation: Material Texts and Their Distributions, Movements, and Networks
Many studies of nineteenth-century print culture and literary history rely upon a model of “circulation”—of words, images, objects, and people—that frequently overlooks a broader array of practices involved in the formation of mass audiences and publics in the long nineteenth century. Furthermore, as both figure and idea, circulation seems to imply smoothness, speed, and completion—factors that rarely hold true for many C19 institutions such as the postal system, evangelical societies, commercial publishers, freight and shipping agencies, and other projects seeking to overcome vast distances and unreliable infrastructures. Circulation doesn’t always capture movement and exchange at the granular level of rural communities, emerging sites of bureaucratic control, or in new forms of mass visualization such as the stereoscope, panorama show, or flap book. This panel invites presenters interested in pushing the limits of circulation with reference to specific case studies drawn from the United States in the long nineteenth century.
Genealogies of Homonationalism
Homonationalism has typically been used to name a late-twentieth and twenty-first century phenomenon in which gay and lesbian rights discourse has achieved power, in part, by donning the rhetoric of U.S. exceptionalism. Yet Jasbir Puar’s 2013 re-articulation of homonationalism as a “facet of modernity and a historical shift” also points to an underexplored set of questions pertinent to nineteenth-century American Studies: What are the deeper genealogies of homonationalism? What forms does it take in periods prior to the popularization of the “homosexual” as a type in Euro-American sexology? What earlier iterations of nationalist homosociality also comprise something like a sexual politics? In what contexts does the homo- of homonationalism become useful for describing non-sexual social formations? What affinities exist between histories of homosociality—erotic, intellectual, aesthetic, literary, militaristic, class-based, or otherwise—and the machinations of white supremacy and settler colonialism?
Scholars of sexuality such as Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Peter Coviello, and Samaine Lockwood have paved the way for this work to be done, attesting to the fact that national belonging in the United States has long taken shape through the cultivation of same-sex intimacy and homosocial attachment. At the same time, scholars such as Mark Rifkin, Siobhan Somerville, and Leela Gandhi have urged scholars to look to the nineteenth century to explore intersections between queer sexualities, deviant racial formations, and anti-colonial politics. Building on this work, “Genealogies of Homonationalism” will interrogate where and how homonationalism takes shape in the 19th century, and in what contexts homonationalism becomes useful, as a category of analysis, for describing intersections between race, citizenship, and socialities oriented toward “sameness.”
We invite 300-word abstracts pertaining to any of the themes and questions addressed above. Please direct these and short CVs to Travis Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Don James McLaughlin (email@example.com) no later than September 5th, 2017.
The Landscape of Tourism in Nineteenth-Century America
This proposed panel for the 2018 C19 conference seeks paper proposals on the topic of tourism in nineteenth-century American culture. The panel aims to explore the relationship between tourism and the American landscape. This might refer to tourism’s impact on the American landscape, or how tourists and touristic writers understood and depicted the environment. Papers might also consider how touristic writers grappled with the cultural or political “landscape” of the nineteenth century.Questions to consider might include: What does tourism discourse reveal about the way authors perceived the American environment? How do different literary genres related to tourism reveal competing or clashing understandings of America? How do authors describe different tourist sites in terms of aesthetic atmosphere? What do the unique (or not unique) aesthetics of different tourist sites reveal about nineteenth-century conceptions of environment, or the sociopolitical climate?
Please email an abstract of no more than 300 words and a CV by August 18th to Emma Newcombe (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Roundtable on Tragic Climates of the Nineteenth Century
“[T]ragic experience,” writes Raymond Williams, “commonly attracts the fundamental beliefs and tensions of a period, and tragic theory is interesting mainly in this sense, that through it the shape and set of a particular culture is often deeply realized.” This proposed roundtable will query what constituted tragedy in the nineteenth-century U.S. as that concept traveled across performance, literary, legal, political, medical, and other contexts. What theories of tragedy developed during this century of national formation and international engagement? How did Native dispossession, African American enslavement, and national imperialism partake of or reconstitute the tragic mode? What was the relationship between triumphalist accounts of American exceptionalism and the tragic—or between narratives of declension and the tragic? To what extent was military conflict, from the Ohio Valley to the Rio Grande to Gettysburg to Wounded Knee to Manila, understood in tragic terms?
The organizers seek in particular short papers that elucidate tragic theory beyond theatrical and literary contexts and hope to compose a roundtable with participants whose work will range across the long nineteenth century.
Seeking Climates of Improvement
The belief that people can “move someplace better” to improve their situation is deeply entrenched in American culture. Popular views of the United States as a “land of opportunity,” rags-to-riches tales of rural dreamers “making it big” in the city, idealists supposedly finding fulfillment in nature, and similar cultural narratives encourage(d) the belief that a change of place or climate can benefit one’s prospects or position. Besides creating hope for brighter futures, however, faith in “improvement moves” can also result in restless dissatisfaction and a chronic, compulsive desire for ever-better circumstances—a condition that, Alexis de Tocqueville warned, often causes misery amidst prosperity. More tragically, this mentality can lead to nefarious, paternalistic relocation initiatives whereby marginalized groups are transferred “elsewhere,” allegedly “for their own good.” Nineteenth-century American life and literature teems with examples of these outcomes; their legacies remain today.We seek participants whose work explores connections between geographic relocation (forced or voluntary) and the desire for improved circumstances (physical, social, economic, etc.) in nineteenth-century American writings. What sorts of possibilities do “improvement moves” open or foreclose during this period and for whom? What happens when groups’ or individuals’ journeys to secure better lives conflict with others’/others? How can issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, or other power dynamics be understood in terms of mobility or lack thereof? What legacies have nineteenth-century “improvement moves” left?
Climate Change and Class
I am seeking scholars to form a panel called “Climate Change and Class” — a panel that addresses the literary representation of the conjunction of climate change and socioeconomic inequality. While environmental justice and environmental racism focus on low-income or minority communities who are forced to live near hazardous or toxic environments, I would like the panel to focus on how climate change or global warming specifically affect the poor. How do authors express concerns about vulnerability, deprivation, limited resources, exploitation, oppression, development, distributive justice, mitigation, and education so that the terms equally apply to financial struggles and anthropogenic climate change? Since both wealth inequality and planetary warming are socially constructed forces of economics and politics, how do authors narrate one in terms of the other in order to reveal and connect the dual exploitation of the poor and the earth?
Please send 250-word abstracts by August 31 to Debby Rosenthal, Professor and Chair, English Department, John Carroll University, Cleveland, OH 44118. email@example.com
The Afterlife of Early American Narratives
Most Americans in the 19th century believed that climate change was real, at least when “climate” referred to the prevailing conditions among a body of people. The environment was imperiled, the republic was divided, and civil liberties were contested. Writers and readers, as is now common knowledge, looked to the past to create a narrative to guide them through such tumult. John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” garnered new meaning. Nathaniel Hawthorne revisited his Puritan past. The antiquarian movement sought to capture (and revise) stories about the American Revolution. And early American novels became reanimated. Charlotte Temple and Eliza Wharton became wax figures in museums. Temple was “buried” in a fake grave that fans flocked to visit. Most scholarship about the nineteenth century’s retrospection suggests that this strategy allowed writers to justify or question America’s existence as a new nation. This panel seeks papers that broaden that argument and help us rethink C19’s relationship to the past. It appeals to anyone who studies how early American narratives were revised, revisited, recycled, and reanimated in this century. Analysis of any genre is welcome. Papers concerning materiality, print culture, and human-object interaction are encouraged.
Please direct 300-word abstracts to Kacy Tillman, firstname.lastname@example.org, by August 15, 2017.
Roundtable on New Directions in Natural History
Recently, natural-history writing has gained attention as a complex textual landscape and a productive site for exploring various critical questions, including (but not limited to) the history of environmental thought, the nature of Euro-colonial imperialism, the emergence and stratification of scientific discourse, and the development of distinct academic disciplines. This roundtable aims to bring together a diverse body of natural-history scholars with the goal of discussing and sharing the range of critical applications and research methods circulating in the field. What are the specific critical affordances of looking at natural history as a fluid multi-genre, which encompasses many of the popular and scientific literary forms in the long nineteenth century? How can emphasizing the diverse and dispersed agents of natural historical knowledge production benefit scholars working in fields such as critical race studies, women’s and gender studies, indigenous studies, and disability studies? Can natural history provide new insights into our critical understanding of the anthropocene and the history of climate science and climate denial? How might our understanding of the cultures of natural history evolve under the lens of environmental justice, ecopoetics, queer ecology, ethnobiology, or animal studies, as well as other non-ecocritical fields, such as the medical humanities, writing studies, cognitive literary studies, science and technology studies, translation studies, or media studies? How do we define best practices for natural historical research, and what kinds of digital research methods, archival practices, and analytical tools are available to scholars working in the field? Finally, how do we incorporate natural historical texts and projects into the various courses we teach?
We seek proposals for 7-minute presentations, which will be followed by a roundtable discussion of the above topics, as well as others of specific interest to the chosen panelists. Interested participants should submit a 200-word proposal and a brief professional bio to Thomas Doran (email@example.com) and Jake McGinnis (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Thursday, August 31.
Climates of the Will
As the concept of “will” gained increasing importance in accounts of the mind over the course of the nineteenth century, interest in disorders, interruptions, and occlusions of the will grew just as quickly. In the first half of the century, the moral valence attached to the will led psychiatrists to codify endless variations on “moral insanity” or “lesions of the will,” concepts that gained traction as legal defenses in U.S. courtrooms of the 1830s and 1840s. By 1890, William James defined “will” in his Principles of Psychology as the mere “anticipatory image” of an action to be carried out or a state of affairs to be created, and yet even James’s more restricted faculty could be disrupted by “exceptional mental states” — hypnosis, dreaming, dissociation, and so on. Though James’s research psychology and the medical psychiatry of the nineteenth century were directed toward different ends — a unified theory of cognition and consciousness in the former case, a set of technologies for curbing socially unacceptable behavior in the latter — both shared an assumption that the smoothly functioning will was more the exception than the rule. Both, that is, framed the faculty as vulnerable to external and internal influences, from coercion to indigestion.
This panel aims to investigate the many “climates”—moods, physiological states, sociological and political environments—to which the nineteenth-century will was susceptible. How did the American novel absorb and elaborate on the challenges to the will, and the corresponding attempts to shore up its power, that preoccupied nineteenth-century law, psychology, and philosophy? How did attempts to train or educate the will through literature and pedagogy intersect with acknowledgments of the will’s fallibility? More broadly, do the affordances of the nineteenth-century concept of will have anything to contribute to contemporary understandings of agency, volition, and personhood? We welcome case studies of the role of will in specific works of American literature, historical examinations of discourses of the will in nineteenth-century disciplines, and theoretical explorations of the relationship between the will and its external and internal climates.
Dark Eden Revisited
From Bartram’s Travels (1791) to Stowe’s Dred (1856) to Du Bois’s Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911), the American literary landscape of the long nineteenth century is saturated with swamps; yet, it was not until relatively recently that the swamp as a space of literature and culture was taken seriously by scholars and critics. In part, the emergence of this interest was presaged by the codification of wetlands as ecologically distinct and endangered environments, a movement that began in the U.S. and abroad in the 1950s and 60s. One of the first studies that may be placed within this new frame of reference is David Miller’s Dark Eden: The Swamp in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (1989). From a phenomenological perspective, Miller considers popular representations of swamp landscapes, both literary and pictorial, and concludes that they signal a profound shift in cultural sensibility. While the iconography of prior representations placed such landscapes at a moralizing distance, that distance was broken down in the 1850s and 60s by new epistemological and aesthetic categories for encountering and valuing wetlands. At mid-century, the old metaphors invoking darkness and decay were replaced by an appreciation for the “immersion in the unknown.” Though the cultural turn identified by Miller only hints at the wetlands conservation ethic that would develop in the twentieth century, it is a moment worth revisiting in light of present-day responses to environmental crisis, as well as the literary and interdisciplinary scholarship for which his book led the way.
With Dark Eden providing a touchstone, this proposed panel invites papers that reconsider the place of American wetlands (in all of their aspects) in nineteenth-century literature and culture. More broadly, it invites those that locate literature and culture at the intersection of land and water, be it littoral, lacustrine, riverine, or just plain muddy. A range of approaches and texts is welcomed.
Please send a 250-word abstract and a short CV or bio to Matt Suazo (email@example.com) by Friday, September 1.
Entwined Ecosystems of Veteran Identity and Representation
Representations of veterans and veteran experience affect both civilian understandings of war and veteran access to community influence. The trope of the veteran—the selectively historical and culturally produced version of veteran identity—constitutes a rich ecosystem of belief, values, and authority that has developed over time alongside civic and political institutions which also contribute to the environment within which military experience is evaluated and put to cultural use.
The cultural construction of veterans is an issue of grave concern for a democratic society, especially one like the United States where military participation rates have declined even as global power projection ability has increased. This panel focuses on the literary and cultural history of the veteran trope during the long nineteenth century so as to recover the expansive archive of possible veteran identities and perspectives.
A genealogy of veteran depictions in literature by popular and influential American authors, most of whom are not veterans, illustrates how the trope of the veteran as it has developed in American literature is the product of many intersecting forces and constituencies. Moreover, the pervasiveness of veteran characters in American literature suggests how prized they have been by a variety of authors for the opportunity they provide to critique momentous issues of national concern.
Papers for this panel could focus on works that were influential either during the time period of original publication (e.g. texts by J.F. Cooper and E.D.E.N. Southworth) or through the subsequent increased valuation and influence of the author in literary history (e.g. C.B. Brown, Melville, and S. M. Piatt). Papers dealing with antebellum works and authors are of particular interest given the large amount of scholarly attention already paid to Civil War characters and authors.
Abstract and CV to Liam Corley (firstname.lastname@example.org) by August 25, 2017.
Radical Literature and the Political Horizons of C19
To what extent does radicalism define the political climate, and radical literature the political horizon, of the long nineteenth century? The organizers of this roundtable seek short papers that provide a fuller account of the various forms, histories, and aims of radical literature that circulated in the United States before coalescing into its more familiar twentieth-century forms (such as the proletarian novel). While retaining Walter Rideout’s helpful definition of radical literature as literature that “objects to the human suffering imposed by some socioeconomic system and advocates that the system be fundamentally changed,” can we expand the category to tell a more complete story of its development and of the range of political possibilities that C19 writers imagined in their poetry and prose? Topics might include, but are not limited to, representations of the French and Haitian revolutions; radical expressions of abolitionism; the early impact of Karl Marx, who published regularly in the New-York Daily Tribune during the 1850s; discourse about Haymarket and its legacy; the widespread reemergence of utopian fiction in the 1880s and 1890s; etc.
Please email an abstract of 250 words and a short CV by September 1 to Nathaniel Cadle (email@example.com).
Reappraising Regionalisms and the American West
Taking the site of Albuquerque, NM as an occasion to investigate what resonance the American West still holds in discussions of American regionalisms, this panel explores how a focus on the American West challenges many existing heuristics about region and nation in the long-nineteenth century.
This panel considers “west” broadly. It is a region, but that region shifted, from western Pennsylvania and Ohio in the early national period, to Illinois and Texas just decades later, and by mid-century marked the vast space that stretched across a continent. It is also a mindset, one that served for decades as future safety valve to sectional discord and one that Frederick Jackson Turner contentiously identified later in the past tense. The West became a voluntary home for many seeking new riches in land and in mines and for religious communities seeking reprieve from religious discrimination. At the same time, the West became an involuntary place of detention as federal government policies forcibly relocated American Indians and continued to redefine the border line for slave states and “free” states. With the many shifting conceptions of such a wide open space, the West repeatedly complicates master narratives of nation and regions and their respective developments across the century.
Accordingly, this panel welcomes papers that seek a conceptual anchor for the shifting conditions of the American West. Possible topics might include the tensions inherent in the imagined and actual West; the supplementary discourses fueling nineteenth-century westward expansion and settlement (e.g. empire for liberty, manifest destiny, gold rush); comparative and critical regionalist approaches to the West and other American regions (e.g. New England, the south, the northwest); the impact of law, race, gender, religion, material, print culture, or memory. We are especially interested in papers that take up the intersections between environment and climate—this year’s conference theme—and the various social uses of the American West.
Please submit 250-word abstracts and a one-page CV by 25 August to Benjamin Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
C19 Energy Humanities
Spurred by the urgencies of global anthropogenic climate change, scholarship in the emerging field of the Energy Humanities is bringing the long overdue perspective of literary and cultural studies to issues of energy production, circulation, and consumption. Most of these projects chronicle and theorize energy in the 20th and 21st centuries. But massive fossil fuel extraction began in the middle of the 19th century, when an energy regime predicated on organic sources gave way, as historian Christopher Jones has put it, to a mineral energy regime.
This panel will begin to explore the possibilities of an Energy Humanities practice grounded in 19th-century U.S. literature, history and culture. We seek papers that explore the C19 energy imaginary, from fossil fuels to speculative and alternative energies (including non-extractive forms of energy such as narrative and creativity). How did C19 artists, writers, energy producers, consumers, and laborers imagine and understand energy? What kinds of affects and attachments did fossil fuels make possible in the 19th century? Where might we locate the sites, sources, and conflicts of nascent U.S. petrocultures? How might recovered sources and interdisciplinary methodologies from C19 literary studies contribute to C21 energy humanities scholarship and environmental activism?
We welcome proposals of all kinds, and we are especially interested in projects that take up questions of race, indigeneity, settler colonialism, and environmental justice in C19 energy history and culture.
Please send 250-word proposals and a short CV to Jeffrey Insko (email@example.com) and Jamie Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) by September 1.
Climate Events and Everyday Environments
Thinking about climate and ecology demands that we grapple anew with the concept of the “event.” On the one hand, ongoing ecological disasters confront us with the possibility of the event of extinction. And responding to seemingly inevitable catastrophes, including varieties of “slow violence,” might require “events” in Alain Badiou’s sense of the term: disruptions that make possible the imagining of new social worlds. On the other hand, the weather remains fodder for uneventful and quotidian conversation even as it threatens to remind us of impending catastrophe. And some have proposed that eventful thinking is what must be resisted: Elizabeth Povinelli, for example, speaks of “quasi-events” to counter the ways the “event-form . . . deflect[s] liberal ethics and politics away from forms of harm more grudging and corrosive.” How does the nineteenth century offer new ways for understanding the event and the everyday in relation to political-ecological phenomena?
Please send 300-word abstracts to Nathan Wolff (email@example.com) and Jason Berger (firstname.lastname@example.org) by August 30th.
“A Plant Out of Place”: The Working of Weeds in the Long 19th Century
Emerson called them “plants whose virtues have not been discovered yet,” and Thoreau battled them in his beanfield. Hawthorne weaponized them in Chillingworth’s hands as the villain violated the sanctity of a human heart. Throughout the long nineteenth century, poets as varied as Walt Whitman and Lucy Larcom exploited the power of weeds as botanical symbols. But weeds are much more than objects of literary study. A weed is a working assemblage of nature and culture, subject and object, of climates past and present. A “weed” is a cultural category but also a plant with prodigious reproductive capacities and skillful dispersal powers. They grow best in recently disturbed land. When weeds disrupt, humans remove them. In removing weeds from fields and gardens, humans further disturb the soil and create ideal conditions for more weeds to grow; weeding brings weeds to life. Thus continues what Eco-theorist Timothy Morton calls “feedback loops of human-nonhuman interaction” in Dark Ecology (2016). Plant energy summons human language and labor, which in turn summons more plants.
This feedback loop reached particular intensity in the long nineteenth century, when agriculture transformed itself into a science and weeds became its nemeses. While weeds have antagonized humans since agriculture began, in the long nineteenth century, according to environmental historian of Canadian weeds, Clinton Evans, rhetoric about the danger of weeds became most fierce. At the turn of the nineteenth century, weeds were personified as villains against whom humans struggle, and the goal became eradication rather than co-existence with these “fortuitous flora,” as another environmental historian calls these plants (Falck). This 19th-century discourse on weeds therefore plays an integral part in the continual working of this assemblage.
While weeds have long been studied at length by farmers, scientists, botanists, gardeners, legislators—and only recently by a handful of environmental historians— they have rarely, and never at length, been explored by literary critics. Because this word has exerted such power—in its material impact and its metaphorical uses—we need to address this omission. 19th-century Americanists might be the ideal scholars to take on this project, considering that writers of the long 19th century created a lasting definition for a “weed”: a plant out of place. Scientists throughout the twentieth century still recite it even when they disavow it. Herbicide use today still works under this assumption–with deadly effects.
We seek papers that further this inquiry into nineteenth-century writings on Please send 300-word proposals and a short CV to Lisa Vetere (email@example.com) and Harry Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org) by September 5.
Population in the Americas
Although it is an established rubric in the study of British literature and a popular subject among U.S. writers, population have never been an obvious fit with U.S. literary studies. The assertion of a singular, countable body of citizens sits uneasily in the context of settler-colonial nation that, as Carrie Hyde suggests, deployed a patchwork array of standards for citizens and equally ad hoc, contradictory ideas about noncitizen residents. Rather than the unified aggregate described by Michel Foucault, population in 19th-century U.S. discourse appears as a divided and unstable set of bodies. From the Three-Fifths Compromise that racialized the numbers of the early census to the assertion of Native American polities as domestic dependent nations, U.S. population discourse has been about the plurality of populations and an insistence that each must be accounted for differently.
Despite these difficulties, population offers a means to think through any number of key literary issues. As Foucault argues, population is central to a range of topics from biological species to the public sphere to national security. The rise of environmental and digital humanities further highlight the need to explore the history of literature and large-scale information.
This panel therefore sets out to examine the disjuncture between conventional scholarly ways of thinking population and 19th-century U.S. literature, asking what other forms the literary might offer for thinking about population, demographics, and the rise of statistical thinking. How did 19th-century authors adapt the language of medicine and political science to find new ways of thinking about demographics and the statistical person? How did sentimental literatures of family intersect with the impersonality of population? What might institutional writings about statistics offer to our understanding of literary aesthetics, and vice versa? How might the problems of race, immigration, and settler colonialism reshape Foucauldian models of population for the contexts the Americas?
Please submit 300-word abstracts and a short CV to Laura Soderberg (email@example.com) by September 1, 2017.
Acts of Consumption: Performance, Bodies, Culture
Whether eating and drinking or purchasing consumer goods, consumption in the nineteenth-century United States was understood to be radically significant, and that significance in turn prompted a wide range of performances, from temperance meeting testimony to blackface minstrelsy to consumer boycotts. These spectacles—often public but sometimes private—became integral to nineteenth-century mass culture. We are seeking paper proposals for a panel that will examine the intersection of performance and consumption in this era. How did consumption allow people to perform particular class, gender, or racial identities? Why is the body, and transformation of the body, so central to performances of consumption? How do specific readerships or audiences redefine the acts of consumption on display, and how do particular consumer objects dictate the behaviors of both consumers and their observers?
We welcome submissions from scholars working in literature, history, performance studies, art history, visual culture, media studies, and associated fields. Please submit a 300-word abstract and a short CV to Erin Pearson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Michael D’Alessandro (email@example.com) no later than September 1.
Getting Outside: Non-dominant Views and the American Environmental Imaginary
Very often, twenty-first century thinkers tasked with imagining the kinds of environmental thought that might have circulated through the climates of nineteenth-century America have rightly turned to the expansive discourses of Transcendentalism and an emergent taxonomic, descriptive science for answers. Within the parameters of these discourses, language and the environment can function in anthropocentric ways: humans use language to encompass nonhuman nature and/or offer other humans new ways to access nonhuman nature (in order to access their metaphysical selves). By contrast, this panel unearths a different body of environmental thought honed by Americans whose social identity, embodiment, and spatial positioning were outside of this pleasure-centered imaginary, and in many cases bound to a landscape from which they wanted to escape. What the discourses above failed to theorize was the effect that imposed environmental constraint had upon those who could write the experience firsthand. This panel explores the ways individuals or groups whose relationship to nonhuman nature and/or access to modes of expression was constrained by material and social climates express, access, and help create or resist the emerging environmental imaginary. By focusing on texts—construed broadly–that registered the environment not as expanse but as periphery, this panel offers a cross section of nineteenth-century thinking on the types of sociality cultivated by people whose orientation to place centered on the border, the boundary, the edge, the margin, the perimeter, etc.
What emerges when one’s orientation to the environment is not one of expanse but enclosure or fugitivity? How do institutions that used violence – slow and fast – to constrain particular subjects register themselves in and upon the texts available to, produced by, or representative of such people? How might these “underground” experiences of place inform current understandings of environmental justice, including the equation of environmental justice with racial justice? How might it historicize lines of critical inquiry engaged with restraint, limitation, and abstention as conceptual alternatives to Enlightenment modes of understanding and framing agency?
Religion and the Formation of US Literary History
In The Islamic Lineage of American Literary Culture (Oxford UP, 2016), Jeffery Einboden writes that his “excavat[ion]” of “Arabic and Persion precedents that shaped U.S. authorial lives and letters” rests on the ongoing “remappings of U.S. literary origins” which have redefinined the ways we think about authorship, nation-states, and literary texts. This panel will examine the relationships between religious-literary histories and the regnant (often-secularized) literary historical narratives fashioned around U.S. literary scholarship, as well as the teaching of U.S. literature.
Please send ~300 word abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 10th.
Fantasies of Reading
What are our enduring critical fantasies about reading? How might greater attention to the limits of reading affect the methods and claims of C19 Americanist scholarship?
From the fantasy of the ideal reader, to preoccupations with critical reading, to claims that reading produces liberation; there are stories about reading that we persist in telling ourselves, despite ample evidence to the contrary. This panel seeks to identify and investigate the fantasies literary critics hold constant in their discussions of how reading works, who gets to read, and the conditions under which texts are composed and received. In so doing, the panel will demonstrate how these investments reveal the uncontested assumptions of our work and ask why certain fantasies seem above reproach even as we integrate methods of new historicism, book history, history of reading, and quantitative analysis into our work.
Please send 300-word abstracts to Sam Sommers (email@example.com) by Sept. 5
Skepticism and Credulity
If the nineteenth century witnessed expanded interest in science and facts, it also nurtured a fascination with deceit. From the minstrel stage to P.T. Barnum’s humbugs, questions of authenticity captured the public’s imagination—and paychecks. This panel invites papers that explore nineteenth-century attitudes surrounding truth and belief, with a particular interest in the structures of knowledge and affect that organized popular understandings of credibility, authority, and legitimacy within the cultural landscape.
Questions to consider might include: How do authors perform and market authenticity in personal narratives and other texts? What cultural genres eschew the taint of falsity, and which ones wallow in it? How do discourses of reason, sentiment, law, and fiction intersect? What are legitimate and illegitimate ways of knowing? What objects, phenomena, and people magnetized skepticism? What are the perils and pay-offs of credulity? What constitutes proof and what are its limits? What affective positions are extolled or condemned under a regime of skepticism? When and how do epistemologies of the marketplace intersect with those of science and faith? How do race and gender organize ways of knowing, and inflect the interpretive encounter between reader and text?
Ecologies of Racial Justice
In the climax of his famous 1857 speech on West Indian Emancipation, Frederick Douglass casts the political struggle for racial justice in terms of the natural order, likening political agitation to both agricultural labor and weather: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” Five years earlier, in his 1852 treatise on “The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States,” Martin Delany draws on climate in decidedly non-metaphorical terms, asserting the advantageous environment in Central America—its healthy climate and geographic centrality—to make his case for New Granada (present-day Panama) and Nicaragua as ideal locales for the establishment of a black nationalist enclave outside the borders of the United States: “In the first place, they are the nearest points to be reached, and countries at which the California adventurers are now touching, on their route to that distant land, and not half the distance of California. In the second place, the advantages for all kinds of enterprise, are equal if not superior, to almost any other points—the climate being healthy and highly favorable.” Writing in the context of increased African American precarity in the United States in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Law, both men center the interdependence between “enterprise” and climate in their arguments for racial justice (Douglass’s call for emancipation and Delany’s assertion of black citizenship rights) to illustrate black self-determination as the natural order. Moreover, both men are writing with an acute awareness of the impact of slavery and other forms of labor exploitation on the global movement of people through and to various literal and political climates.
At the end of the 19th century/ beginning of the 20th, Mary Austin, whose work focused specifically on the deserts of the Southwest, engaged in a form of nature writing not about finding oneself in the land—as she writes in Land of Little Rain (1903), “Desert is a loose term to indicate land that supports no man; whether the land can be bitted and broken to that purpose is not proven. Void of life it never is, however dry the air and villainous the soil”—but rather about entering into a community, a cooperation of creatures and climates. Los Angeles’s controversial annexation of water in the Owens Valley, for example, which Austin later fictionalized in The Ford (1918), would have a long-lasting devastating impact on the region and its various inhabitants. Austin, a social activist working at the intersections of water rights, women’s rights, Native American rights, and Spanish American rights, increasingly understood land conservation to be inextricable from social justice. In an effort to address issues of ecology, race, and gender, Austin turned away from Anglo-European literary traditions toward Native American folklore and performance, which she understood as under threat of erosion. Native Americans were the true Americans, she believed, and she attempted to find in their stories and dances an “American” poetics that would draw from the land itself. Although undeniably operating within an early Modernist vein of primitivism, Austin brought an environmental perspective to the economic forces of colonization in the West and their impact on racial justice.
Taking up these writers’ provocations to understand citizenship, slavery, labor, emancipation, emigration, and aesthetics in dynamic relation to the natural world, both shaped by and constituting particular environments, conditioning political potential, this panel seeks papers that address what we are calling the ecology of racial justice. We seek papers that examine the relation of climate to economic enterprise in the context of global capital in the second half of the 19th century. We are particularly interested in papers addressing literature of Western migration and the desert environments of mid-to late- 19th century American Southwest.
Has Recovery Run Out of Steam? Perspectives from the Black Nineteenth Century
In the introduction to a 2015 special issue of Social Text on “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive,” guest editors Laura Helton, Justin Leroy, Max Mishler, Samantha Seeley, and Shauna Sweeney posit that scholars of Atlantic slavery and freedom “cannot resolve the tension between recovering archival traces of black life as a means of contesting legacies of racism and exclusion, on the one hand, and reading the archive as a site of irrevocable silence that reproduces the racial hierarchies intrinsic to its construction, on the other” (2). The implication here—and fleshed out in the other essays assembled in this particular volume—is that scholarly work on the African diaspora in the Atlantic world must move beyond the previously-dominant paradigm of “recovery,” while also recognizing both its “radical” and “reductive” (8) legacies. Our roundtable broadly considers the question of “recovery” by turning its attention to African American literary history in the long nineteenth century—foregrounding its political imperatives, pedagogical implications, and practical considerations.
As Britt Rusert has recently noted, African American literary studies has witnessed a “return to the archive” (995) joining new methodologies in the study of book history and print culture with longstanding practices in black feminist scholarship. No longer tied to earlier periods when “recovery and reprint” (1004) efforts worked either to institutionalize and then later legitimate African American literary studies writ large, this resurgence in archival work prompts several important questions: How might we reconcile this archival (re)turn with calls to move away from the paradigm of recovery? How does “recovery work” alter our understandings of canon and canonization? How do we teach recovered works? What might we recover beyond simply texts and authors—ways of being, writing, or living? How has the increasing digitization of archival sources, along with the advent of DH methodologies, impacted recovery efforts and their presentation to broader scholarly and public audiences? What is left to be recovered? Or has recovery run out of steam?
We are currently seeking additional presenters to fill out this roundtable proposal. Please submit 300-word abstracts along with a short CV to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 10, 2017.
To submit a proposal for the 2018 conference, go to: c19conference2018.exordo.com/.