CFP: Sedgwick Society at ALA 2023 (Deadline: 1.15.2023)

The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society solicits proposals for two panels to be presented at the 2023 American Literature Association Conference. The conference will take place May 25-28 at the Westin Copley Place in Boston, Massachusetts.

The society seeks papers on the topic of mental illness and mental health in early national and antebellum America. We welcome proposals that address Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s own works (including her published works, her letters and journals, and her manuscript autobiography) or writings by her contemporaries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Suggested topics might include (but are by no means limited to):

– Mental illness in the Sedgwick family (including Catharine’s mother Pamela and her brother 


– Depictions of mental illness in Sedgwick’s works (“crazy” Bet in A New-England Tale, Bessie Lee in The Linwoods, Aunt Sarah and Mrs. Tallis in Married or Single?, Seton in Clarence)

– Marriage, domesticity, and mental illness

– Mental health treatment (or lack thereof) in the early national antebellum periods

– Race and class in the construction of mental illness

– Religion and mental health (“gloomy” Calvinism, Shakers and other new religious movements)

– Criminality, corporal punishment, and mental illness 

– Seduction, sexual assault, and the construction (and destruction) of women’s mental health

Submit proposals of around 250 words to Ashley Reed ( by January 15th.

CMS Society 2022 Elections – Call for nominations

Call for Nominees:

We will be holding elections for all Executive Board member positions, and we strongly encourage self-nominations. Participation on the Sedgwick Society board is not only personally rewarding, but also an excellent way to expand your service to the profession at the national level and to develop contacts and build relationships with other scholars and educators in the field. For this election cycle, Ellen Foster has agreed to serve as the Sedgwick Society election coordinator. People who are interested in serving as officers must send their candidate statements to Ellen via email— Candidate statements will be distributed with a link to a ballot.

All officers are elected to three-year terms by simple majority of the members who vote via the official ballot. If you have questions or would like more information about a particular position, or about serving on the Executive Board more generally, we encourage you to contact any of the current executive board members ( The officer team consists of the following positions. See next page for descriptions:


First Vice-President, Programs

Second Vice-President, Programs

Vice-President, Communications and Newsletter

Vice-President, Membership and Finance

Vice-President, Digital Resources

Executive Board Position Descriptions

The Executive Board duties are imperfectly listed in the CMSS by-laws. The descriptions offered below give prospective candidates a more specific sense of the officers’ roles.


Promotes the Society’s vision and mission of supporting scholarship and exchange on CMS’s life and works, and overall, to increase visibility of society and support productivity of membership by helping to coordinate conference activity, both “external” (reading abstracts, chairing if needed) and “internal” (especially contacting keynote speakers, helping with arrangements); recruiting new members; connecting with other author societies (co-sponsoring conferences and events at conferences to promote scholarly activity); suggesting and generating content for the newsletter (e.g., “annual report,” special articles, membership activity, & soliciting others to contribute); fundraising for symposia; mini- grant writing for special events; contacting/updating Advisory Board members.

First Vice-President, Programs

Organizes a (generally) tri-annual symposium. Working with the CMSS board, identifies a theme and location; creates a CFP and registration information; receives and reviews abstracts; organizes panels and the symposium schedule; identifies the keynote speaker(s) and other outside events; works with food and drink vendors; and generally hosts the symposium itself. While the first VP coordinates all of these tasks, many of them are done by board members, other volunteers, and/or a host institution.

Second Vice-President, Programs

Prepares panels for national conferences, including ALA and SSAWW and MLA (this includes sending out call for papers, selecting abstracts, chairing or choosing a chair, and communicating with organizations and presenters); works with Executive Committee to design conference panel topics, solicit proposals, organize blind review of abstracts, arrange for chairing of panels, communicate with panelists; may prepare or coordinate panels at regional conferences; assists first VP Programs with organizing symposium.

Vice-President, Communications and Newsletter

Produces and distributes the Society’s newsletter (digital format); sends occasional email updates and announcements to the membership; maintains the CMSS affiliates email list, website/blog, and other social media; solicits materials from officers and membership; sends occasional email updates and announcements to the membership.

Vice-President, Membership and Finance

Maintains the CMSS membership list; processes new memberships and renewals; processes registrations for symposia; assists with the planning for symposia with particular emphasis on financial transactions; recruits election coordinator and assists with ballot distribution to current membership.

Vice-President, Digital Resources

Responsible for web design and digital communication, including updating the CMSS website, Facebook page, and other on-line communications as needed.

CMS Society 2022 Proposed By-laws Amendment

Proposed Amendment to Article IV: Dues of the CMSS By-laws

At the business meeting during the 2022 CMSS Symposium, members discussed raising our society membership fees in order to keep pace with the rising costs of future conferences.  As much as possible, we want membership in the Sedgwick Society to remain affordable for graduate students and independent scholars. The officers propose the following amendment to increase membership dues in “Article IV: Dues” of the By-laws of the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society.

Existing Dues Structure:

Regular member: $10

Institutional member: $25

Student member: $5

Lifetime member: $200

Proposed Dues Structure:

Regular member: $20

Student, Independent Scholar member: $10

3-year Sustaining membership: $50

Lifetime member: $250

*Eliminate Institutional Member tier at $25

CMSS members will vote on this proposed amendment at the same time they vote for the CMSS officers in November 2022.  Remember, you must be a current CMSS member to participate in the voting process.

Membership Updates

If you’re not sure whether your CMS Society membership is up to date, then please see this linked spreadsheet, which lists our 2022-2023 members. Remember that you can renew or join anytime at the Sedgwick Society membership page.

CFP: Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society at ALA 2022 (Deadline: 1.15.2022)

The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society solicits proposals for two panels to be presented at the 2022 American Literature Association Conference. The conference will take place May 26-29 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. 

Inventing the Novel
Writing to her friend Susan Channing in 1822, newly minted author Catharine Maria Sedgwick reflected on her recently published work A New-England Tale. “I began that little story for a tract,” she told Channing, “but I had no plans, and the story took a turn that seemed to render it quite unsuitable for a tract.” This anecdote suggests that the line between “tract” and “story” was thin, since Sedgwick accidentally transgressed it by way of a simple “turn” in her plot. What is more, Sedgwick herself referred to her long work as “a story” and “a tale” and yet critics of early American literature consistently identify it as her first novel. 
The novel has long been a difficult form to define, particularly in the American context where the proliferation of print media and a longstanding debate over “novel” vs “romance” have shaped literary-historical values. This difficulty has been exacerbated by the novel’s shifting cultural cachet, with early authors abjuring or decrying this generic category that later critics would impose on their work. This proposed panel explores how the novel has been invented and reinvented over the last several hundred years. Rather than tracing a narrative of the novel’s “rise,” we seek papers that examine the novel’s circuitous trajectory through literary and critical history, whether as an aesthetic category, a platform for political action, a site of critical wrangling, or a container for formal innovation. What generic forms, such as letters, sketches, personal narratives, and tracts, preceded, accompanied, or were absorbed into the novel form? How, in turn, did the nineteenth-century novel transform (subsume?) these other types of writing? How did authors and critics come to terms with the protean nature of the novel form? How did they continue–how are we continuing?–to incorporate these early forms into the ongoing invention of the novel in the twentieth and even twenty-first centuries?
This panel celebrates the 200th anniversary of A New-England Tale. The Sedgwick Society welcomes and encourages proposals pertaining to Sedgwick’s era or later periods of American literature that engage with the novel’s circuitous path through the nineteenth century.
Submit proposals of around 250 words to Ashley Reed ( by January 15th.

Care Work in the Texts of Catharine Maria Sedgwick and Her Contemporaries
Depictions of nursing and care are common in early national and antebellum literature, though the status of care workers and the professionalization of their labor shifted enormously during the first hundred years of the republic. The Sedgwick family was famously supported by the care work of Elizabeth Freeman both before and after Freeman sued for her freedom before the Massachusetts state courts. Catharine called Freeman her “second mother” because her own mother, Pamela Dwight Sedgwick, suffered from mental illness and experienced both home care and institutionalization. Depictions of care work–and the important recognition that care is work–suffuse many of Sedgwick’s writings, from regional fiction like Redwood to didactic novellas like Live and Let Live to non-fiction sketches like “Slavery in New England.” 
This panel invites papers on any aspect of care work as discussed or depicted in the literature of the American nineteenth century, including but not limited to:

  • gendered and raced aspects of care and healing
  • professionalization of care 
  • care and/as domestic labor
  • mental illness care
  • disability and care of/by disabled persons
  • care work in the Civil War and other conflicts
  • care work by/for/among enslaved people

Submit proposals of around 250 words to Ashley Reed ( by January 15th.

CFP: Sedgwick Society at SSAWW 2021

Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society at SSAWW 2021

Gender and Genre in the Long Nineteenth Century
The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society seeks papers that explore intersections of gender and genre in American writing from the early republic through the postbellum period. As women writers increasingly entered the literary marketplace after the American Revolution, they embraced a broad array of fiction and nonfiction genres. Economic and social pressures often—though not always—pushed women toward domestic romance and religious narrative and away from genres considered masculine, even as male authors participated in sentimental and reform discourse in genres like the temperance novel and the escaped slave narrative. Meanwhile, anonymous and pseudonymous publication sometimes enabled authors to step beyond the gendered boundaries patrolled by editors and publishers. This panel will showcase recent work that explores gendered aspects of literary genre—or literary aspects of gender—in the nineteenth century. Pedagogical approaches to gender and genre are welcome.
Send 200-word abstracts to Ashley Reed ( by February 15, 2021.

Illness, Disability, Death, and Survival in the Writings of Catharine Maria Sedgwick and Her Contemporaries
Though the times we are living in may be unprecedented for us, financial crisis, political instability, and epidemic disease were regular occurrences for Americans of the early nineteenth century, who experienced debilitating illness, lifelong disability, and early death as everyday facts of life. The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society seeks papers that address these and other questions as they are explored in the work of Sedgwick and her contemporaries:

  • How did the experience of illness produce, shape, or inhibit authorship in the nineteenth century?
  • How did nineteenth-century authors thematize illness, disability, death, and survival in their writing? 
  • How do nursing and other forms of caregiving figure in the writing of nineteenth-century Americans? 
  • How has recent scholarship on disability changed our understanding of nineteenth-century writing?
  • As teachers of nineteenth-century texts, how do we treat illness, disability, and death in the college classroom?
  • Does nineteenth-century writing on illness and death offer resources for us as readers, scholars, and teachers living through COVID-19?

Send 200-word abstracts to Ashley Reed ( by February 15, 2021.

Sedgwick in the Summer

Sedgwick Society Summer Webinars

The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society announces a series of webinars featuring new works of Sedgwick scholarship. Invited scholars will discuss their recent monographs and address Sedgwick, her career, and her place in contemporary literary studies. 

Webinars are open to the public but registration is required; click the links below to register for each individual event. For more information or to join the Sedgwick Society, visit

Friday, July 31, 2 pm ET

Lydia Fash, author of The Sketch, The Tale, and the Beginnings of American Literature (University of Virginia Press, 2020)

Joe Shapiro, author of The Illiberal Imagination: Class and the Rise of the U.S. Novel (University of Virginia Press, 2017)

Hosted by Melissa Homestead


Friday, August 14, 3 pm ET

Brigitte Bailey, author of American Travel Literature, Gendered Aesthetics and the Italian Tour, 1824-62 (Edinburgh University Press, 2018)

Sandra Wilson Smith, author of The Action-Adventure Heroine: Rediscovering an American Literary Character, 1697-1895 (University of Tennessee Press, 2018)

Hosted by Jenifer Elmore


Friday, August 28, 3 pm ET

Martin Holtz, author of Constructions of Agency in American Literature on the War of Independence: War as Action, 1775-1860 (Routledge, 2019)

Ashley Reed, author of Heaven’s Interpreters: Women Writers and Religious Agency in Nineteenth-Century America (Cornell University Press, 2020)

Hosted by Jordan Von Cannon


2020 CMSS Symposium Postponed to 2021

As universities set limits on faculty and student travel because of concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Sedgwick Society has worked with Union College and the Doubletree Hotel in Schenectady, NY, to postpone our 2020 Symposium for one year. We want to remain ahead of this evolving situation and anticipate any potential disruptions to our conference attendees and their travel plans for summer.

We received a wonderful response to our CFP, and we hope that everyone who responded this year, along with everyone who has attended in the past, will plan to attend CMSS Symposium 2021. In the near future, we will formally respond to each individual who proposed a paper.
In looking ahead to the postponed Symposium on June 17-19, 2021, we are committed to open conference registration in August 2020, and we will offer a discounted membership renewal/registration bundle for those who register early.

We appreciate your understanding and support, and we hope to see you next year at Union College in Schenectady!


The Executive Board of the CMSS

Teaching Sedgwick Prize (Deadline: 3.1.2020)

The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society announces the new Teaching Sedgwick Prize, which recognizes excellence and creativity in teaching the works of Catharine Sedgwick in a variety of contexts. To be considered for the prize, submit a detailed description of your teaching activity and any associated materials (lesson plans, writing prompts, etc.) documenting a teaching activity that you have carried out or will soon carry out. Submit these materials as e-mail attachments to Melissa J. Homestead (, President of the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society, by March 1, 2020. The winner will be announced in the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society Newsletter and the submitted materials published on the Sedgwick Society’s website. The winner will be awarded $100 and a complimentary registration to the 2020 Sedgwick Symposium in Schenectady, New York. The winner will also have the opportunity to lead a discussion about teaching Sedgwick at the symposium.

CFP: Sedgwick Society Symposium June 2021 (First Deadline: 2.24.2020)

Revolutionary Legacies: The Ninth Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society Symposium

June 17-19, 2021

Union College, Schenectady, New York

The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society invites submissions for its ninth symposium, titled Revolutionary Legacies. The Symposium will take place June 17-19 on the beautiful campus of Union College in Schenectady, New York, and will honor both the Sedgwick family’s ties to the Albany and Hudson River regions and the area’s role in America’s many revolutions.

Although Catharine Sedgwick is strongly associated with the Berkshires region of Massachusetts, the Albany region was important to her family as well. Her father, Theodore Sedgwick, had strong ties to Philip Schuyler, who served as a General in the Revolutionary War and whose grand mansion looms over the Hudson River, and to Alexander Hamilton, one of Schuyler’s sons-in-law. Catharine’s brother Theodore practiced law in Albany and her sister Frances lived there with her husband. Catharine herself briefly attended school in the city and as an adult visited frequently, including passing through on her way to Saratoga Springs and points west and north. Sedgwick often portrayed the Albany and Hudson River Valley region in her fiction: characters in RedwoodClarence, and The Travellers reside in or travel through it. Most significantly, in her Revolutionary War novel The Linwoods, Sedgwick locates key events in the Hudson River Valley. 

The organizers of the Sedgwick Symposium invite papers that address any aspect of Sedgwick’s life and works, including but not limited to Catharine’s or her family’s ties to Albany and the Hudson River Valley. We also welcome proposals on other topics connected to the area or to the conference theme. Potential topics might include:

  • Literary engagements with the American Revolution by Sedgwick or other authors—including non-US authors
  • Women’s participation in the American Revolution, including nonwhite women’s experiences of war
  • Travel and tourism in New York and Canada in the era of the “fashionable tour”
  • Immigration, settlement, and native displacement in upstate New York
  • Abolitionism, women’s rights, and other reforms (2020 is the centennial of the 19th Amendment, with its roots in nearby Seneca Falls)
  • Religious revolutions of the Second Great Awakening, including those in New York’s “burnt-over district”
  • Dutch colonial legacies in early U.S. literature
  • Slavery and its aftermath in the state of New York
  • Women’s education in the early republic and antebellum America
  • Arts and culture of the Hudson Valley region, from the Hudson River School to today
  • The American Revolution in recent popular culture: HamiltonTurnTabooSleepy HollowPoldark, etc.
  • Strategies for teaching the works of Sedgwick and her contemporaries
  • Early American literature in the digital age

Send proposals of no more than 250 words to Ashley Reed ( by February 24, 2020 (first deadline). Due to the postponement of the 2020 Symposium, we will re-open the call for papers in the coming months to allow for additional submissions before our 2021 symposium

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,, 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,, by January 15, 2020.