C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists will host its sixth biennial conference from October 16-18 & 23-25, 2020, as a virtual meeting, sponsored by Penn State University.
The long nineteenth century was a time of political, social, and cultural volatility, marked by conflict, strife, discord, protest, and disagreement. It was an age of rebellion, riot, and revolution; it was an era in which social movements, such as women’s rights, labor rights, abolitionism, civil rights, Indigenous rights, land rights, anti-imperialism, and religious dissidence coincided with ideological revolt/s, such as communism, communitism, socialism, and spiritualism. It was an epoch of bodily dissent that incited and galvanized resistance to enforced and coerced gender, racial, class, and sexual norms. It was also a time in which literary and cultural formations expressly challenged artistic orthodoxy in favor of experiments in both content and form.
With this theme, we aim to inspire a broad consideration of varied forms of “dissent”: nonconformity to existing identities, institutions, policies, practices, and norms in the long nineteenth century. What constitutes “dissent” in this period? How do we think through genealogies of dissent--that is, the ways nineteenth-century dissent might or might not offer a way to frame contemporary circumstances and formations?
We also hope to engender discussions about dissent in scholarship and pedagogy. How might we challenge dominant or conventional theoretical and methodological approaches within nineteenth-century American literary and cultural studies? Do we need reformulations of what constitutes analysis, proper objects of study, disciplinary boundaries, and field formation? How might the particular historical and archival labor of nineteenth century American studies challenge the scholarly values of the twenty-first century university?
Lastly, how might we theorize divergences from dissent, such as accord, consensus, convention, and acceptance, or reactionary forms of dissent, such as nativism and revanchism? To what extent might dissent itself, so often framed as a form of negation, risk closing off intellectual and political possibilities in our work and in our classrooms? Are there limits to “critique”? In what ways might we productively dissent from dissent?
In addition to submissions related to our theme, we invite papers and panels on other topics, especially those engaging literary, cultural and historical perspectives on nineteenth century Florida and its location within the circum-Caribbean. We particularly encourage transhemispheric, transoceanic, and transnational approaches; presentations attending to
migration, movement, and travel, and those examining the complex lives, afterlives and ecologies of settler colonialism, indigeneity, slavery and empire.
Jennifer C. James, Program Chair, The George Washington University
Mark Rifkin, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Gretchen Woertendyke, University of South Carolina
Image: The North Star, Dec. 22, 1848,
founded and edited by Frederick Douglass,
Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society