This panel will explore the notion of texture in relation to nineteenth-century American literature and culture. In an essay titled “Outing Texture” Renu Bora distinguishes between texture as “the surface resonance or quality of an object or material” and texxture (two x’s) as “the stuffness of material structure.” Put differently, we can say that texxture denotes the historicity of texture, or the maker’s marks. In Eve Sedgwick’s rendering of Bora’s concept, texxture is thought to be “the kind of texture that is dense with offered information about how, substantially, historically, materially, it came into being.” We might then ask: how does the dialectic of texture/texxture influence literary productions and their reception? As readers, to what extent is our experience of texture influenced by how different writers at different moments during the nineteenth century would describe the objects and surfaces of their immediate world? Further, how might we view the relations between author, her or his specific use of different texture-words, and the medium by which the reader finally comes to experience the literary work?
We are looking for a third panelist who will help us explore the relation between textual objects, desire, and affect in the American context. For example, in Moby-Dick, Ishmael “quake[s] to think of” the inner savageness that Queequeg’s tattooed body must signify. Amardeep Singh refers to many different “texture-words” that are grouped according to semantic kinship, as well as their particular textual effects and affects. His paper for this panel is interested in exploring “steampunk” textures in Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward and William Morris' News from Nowhere. Rasmus Simonsen will be interrogating Thoreau’s eschewal of narcissistic identification on the basis of the inversion of vision and touch—most apparently in relation to the many fragmentary images of Walden Pond that populate his writings. Together with a third panelist, we hope to engage the theme of “Commons” for the 2014 meeting of C19: Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists Conference, by focusing on the possibility of establishing a shared sense of touch across different texts and situations. However, such communality might easily be disrupted by different experiences and sensations concerning gender, sexuality, race, and geography, to mention but a few.
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