CFP: Sedgwick Society at ALA 2020

The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society seeks proposals for a roundtable and a panel to take place at the American Literature Association Conference in San Diego, CA, May 21-24, 2020

A Roundtable on Jeffrey Insko’s History, Abolition, and the Ever-Present Now in Antebellum American Writing
The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society calls for 5-7 scholars to participate in a roundtable discussion of Jeffrey Insko’s recently published History, Abolition, and the Ever-Present Now in Antebellum American Writing (Oxford UP, 2018).  We are seeking scholars at various career levels and from different types of institutions to reflect on Insko’s work. Participants do not need to focus on the discussions of Sedgwick in the book’s second chapter but instead can address Insko’s treatment of any of the central authors (including Irving, Neal, Emerson, Douglass, and Melville); the significance of this scholarship for Sedgwick studies, studies of antebellum American literature, or theories of temporality; and/or key issues in Insko’s work, such as historicism and presentism, abolition, and literary Romanticism. The Ever-Present Now examines the meaning and possibilities of the present and its relationship to history and historicity in a number of literary texts of the past; specifically, the writings of several familiar figures in antebellum U.S. literary history—some, but not all of whom we associate with the period’s Romantic movement. Anchored by the impatient temporality of immediatist abolitionists, the book recovers some of the political force of Romanticism, which becomes clear when we foreground time, especially the time of now. Through close readings of texts by figures as different as Washington Irving, John Neal, Catharine Sedgwick, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Herman Melville, the book argues that these writers, some explicitly and others implicitly, practiced forms of literary historiography that treat the past as neither simply a reflection of present interests nor as an irretrievably distant “other,” but as a complex and open-ended interaction between the two. In place of a fixed and immutable past with unidirectional movement, these writers imagine history as an experience rooted in a fluid, dynamic, ever-changing present. The political, philosophical, and aesthetic disposition Insko calls “romantic presentism” insists upon the present as the fundamental sphere of human action and experience and, hence, of ethics and democratic possibility.

Please send a brief abstract (100-200 words) outlining your intended focus in the roundtable to Ashley Reed, akreed@vt.edu, by January 15, 2020. 


Panel: Nonhuman Life in Early America
The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society invites papers on the subject of nonhuman life in early America. 
This panel will consider forms of nonhuman life in early America as they appear in the work of Sedgwick and her contemporaries. Papers might address (but are not limited to): • nonhuman animals, whether domestic or wild • vegetative life • superhuman or supernatural life (angels, ghosts, gods, sprites) • exclusions from the human (the subhuman, the semihuman, the animalistic) • early America in/and the anthropocene

Please send abstracts of 250 words to Ashley Reed, akreed@vt.edu, by January 15, 2020.