The Transnational in Nineteenth-Century America:
Land, Water and Zones of Literary Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism
This panel is organized for “Imagining: A New Century,” the inaugural conference of C19: The Society of Nineteenth Century Americanists, which will be held from May 20 to 23, 2010, at The Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State’s University Park campus in State College, Pennsylvania. The conference website is at:
Where and when do we identify Empire as an epistemological and historical problem? And what is the relationship between literature, Empire and other transnational connectivities? Our panel takes up a wide variety of ways that Empire functions during the nineteenth century, before the postmoderm period that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2000) identify as the context for Empire’s exploitations. Specifically, we consider the role that the literary imagination plays in both serving and undercutting imperialism, arguing that we must historicize imperialism and its intersections with literature if we are to understand its symbolic and material workings.
The nineteenth century saw both formal, politically organized, state-sponsored imperialism and private, fragmented movements across territories, where markets, publics and bureaucracies, as well as militias, crossed borders in ways that served some subjects at the expense of others. Depicting these crossings and itself traveling across the territory that would become the “United” States of America, literature provides an intimate interface for participation in and reflection on cultural contact.
Our title calls particular attention to the spatiality of Empire, including the stretch of land, the stretch of the ocean, prairies, woods and the way that literature takes up and typifies topographies. How do wateriness and earthiness ground and unsettle imperialism, as literature charts topographies in the cultural imagination? How does literature work to unify a variety of populations and geographies as something that can be named and treated as America or as something that resists the unity of that construction? How does literature construct and question relationships between people and territories? How do the materialities of literature (printing technologies, distribution networks, cost of paper) limit and extend Empire?
We are interested in papers that extend and/or critique current paradigms for imagining literature’s intersection with American Empire. With this in mind, we are particularly interested in work that not only uses but also explicitly reflects on terminologies like the following:
• the transnational
• the “transamerican renaissance” (Anna Brickhouse)
• “transculturation” (Fernando Ortiz, Mary Louise Pratt)
• zones of contact
• literatures of discovery
• narratives of encounter
• geography as “metasetting” (Martin Bruckner)
• “ethnocritical frontier orientation” (Arnold Krupat)
• postcoloniality in America
• “inter-American literature”
• the transnational as translation (Colleen Boggs)
• hemispheric American Studies (Caroline Levander, Robert Levine)
We also are interested in studies of how genres organize and conceptualize imperialism; how literature is embedded in a capitalism that, as it expands markets, requires the traversing of borders; and how race, gender and class impact literary imperialism and anti-imperialism.
Please send to both Naomi Greyser (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Amy Parsons (email@example.com) an abstract of 400 words and a short (2 pp.) CV by Sept 1.
Amy Parsons, University of Wisconsin, Platteville
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