CFP: Edith Wharton and the Material Cultures of the Book (Collection:9/30/06, abstracts 3/31/06)
Call for Papers Date:
Initial Call for Papers for a proposed volume on
Edith Wharton and the Material Cultures of the Book.
Keywords: Book History, Cultural History, 19th/20thC American Literature, Publishing, Economic and Social History.
Wharton’s fascination with the printed and bound volume predated her own literacy, and this first call for papers invites scholars to scrutinise closely the relationship between the material production and dissemination of Wharton’s books and her creative and financial ambitions. To what extent were Wharton’s authorial goals and practices shaped by an understanding of the material cultures of the book in the period c.1890-1930? Did her choice of publishers and publication contexts demonstrate an adept awareness of the nature of cultural capital in a market economy? Did contemporary debates over the value of literature influence her critical thinking about the economic and moral utility of fiction? And are Edith Wharton’s novels interrogative or acquiescent in this discussion?
Contributors are encouraged to interpret the idea of the material culture of the book as widely as they wish, drawing upon research from sociology, economic and social history, literary theory, bibliography, book history, philosophy and anthropology. I would particularly welcome contributors seeking to examine Wharton’s publication, production, dissemination and place in book history and material culture outside of an American context. Some topics that you might wish to discuss include:
- Wharton’s relationship with her publishers in the USA, UK, France and elsewhere
- The economics of the book trade and its impact on Wharton’s writing
- Wharton and her literary agents
- The representation of the book as ‘material culture’ in Wharton’s fiction
- The production and distribution of Wharton’s books (especially during WW1)
- Wharton’s libraries, real and fictional
- Propaganda and the material and moral utility (or economy) of the book
- Wharton’s own understanding of the material culture of the book vis-à-vis visual art, music, drama or cinema
- Contemporary theories (from economics, politics and philosophy) of the material value of literature that impinged upon Wharton and her writing
- Contingent serialisation vs. the definitive volume: a material or immaterial distinction?
- Expatriation vs. domesticity: the material freight of literature
- Wharton’s bibliophilia: material or sentimental?
- When is a book a book? Material culture, ‘dry goods’ and the idea of the book in the American ‘Gilded Age’ and after
- Recent theoretical work by Bourdieu, Chartier, Darnton etc and its relevance to Wharton scholarship
- Advertising Wharton’s books
- Material culture and the mass market for fiction: elite vs. popular consumption patterns
- Wharton’s sensitivity over the presentation (binding, paper, punctuation etc) of her book
- The cultural material(ism) of Wharton’s literary legacy
Please register your interest in this project by sending an abstract of c.500 words and a brief CV by the deadline of 31 March 2006 to the editor, Dr Shafquat Towheed at SSTowheed@aol.com. Accepted contributors will have until 30 September 2006 to submit their manuscripts, which should ordinarily be c.6000-8500 words in length. If you wish to discuss any aspect of this project, feel free to contact me.
Dr Shafquat Towheed
Dr Shafquat Towheed
Institute of English Studies, University of London
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