Calls for Individual Panels & Roundtables
Bloomington, IN | Nov 9 - 11, 2023
Roundtable: Liberal Subjects, Then and Now
Liberalism’s nebulous contours have long animated studies of nineteenth-century British literature and culture. This roundtable seeks to extend these discussions by turning to this tradition’s imprint upon our practices and conceptions of teaching and scholarship. We invite papers that trouble the continued privileging of the “liberal subject,” a term that encompasses ideas of individualism, originality, and progress–values whose peculiar Victorianism has been analyzed by Elaine Hadley, Amanda Anderson, and Lauren Goodlad, among others. How does our inheritance of historical liberal ideals continue to shape our work as teachers, students, administrators, and researchers, especially in the context of the “decline” of the humanities, technology’s encroachment on writing and critical thinking, and planetary crisis? And how are our critiques necessarily, inextricably intertwined with the “lived reality of liberal thinking” (Anderson,Bleak Liberalism)? We welcome innovative approaches to these questions.
Topics may include:
Publishing: “publish or perish,” the monograph, single-author publication
Argumentation: the language of “intervention” and “stakes”
Tenure and promotion
The idea of the liberal arts
New forms of the dissertation
Curricular innovation in all aspects of the classroom
Undisciplining the Victorian syllabus
Collaboration and mentorship
Critiques of liberalism beyond Victorian studies, e.g., from other fields (disability studies, queer of color theory, trans studies, ecocriticism, Indigenous studies) and disciplines (anthropology, political science, psychology, economy, history)
Spectacles of Labour
There is a common adage that labour is invisible in Victorian literature. From Bruce Robbins’s discussion of the servant’s spectral “hand” to Carolyn Lesjak’s claim that labour is often hidden in the Victorian novel, scholars have often asserted that labour is rarely made visible. Yet, in the Victorian period itself, as Tim Barringer suggests, certain types of labour were made increasingly visible through aesthetic means. Whether it was paintings of farmers and other agricultural workers, Ford Madox Brown’s painting “Work,” or the Great Exhibition “of the Works of Industry of All Nations,” where audiences watched printmakers and seamstresses create new pieces and engineers fine-tune machines, labour was something highly visualized.
In light of NAVSA’s 2023 theme of “Revision, Return, Reform,” this panel aims to explore the impetus behind making labour a spectacle and how this idea might help revise critical conceptions of labour representations in Victorian literature. Papers might address questions such as: How can revising or reforming our approaches to analyzing domestic labour, creative labour, service work, care work, and other forms of work and labour complicate our understanding of their visibilities? How do highlighted performances of workers in fiction, and particularly of those marginalized on the basis of race, gender, or sexuality, affect interpretations of these figures in other art forms? How might we, in returning to Victorian texts with new modes of envisioning labour, reassess their legacies of exhibition and exploitation by including Marxist, colonialist, gendered, or disabled accounts of labour?
Submissions will be accepted through February 26th, 2023. Please submit your abstract (max. 250 words) and brief bio (max. 125 words) to Emily Halliwell-MacDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Colleen McDonell (email@example.com).
Reform and Revelation: Religious Voice in the Nineteenth Century
In asking us to consider “Revision, Return, and Reform,” this year’s theme points us to look back as a way to inform the present. This panel engages this process through the lenses of religious speech, asking how nineteenth-century religious movements and figures looked to the past for modes and forms with which to articulate their visions for the present. That nineteenth-century religion was interested in these themes of revision, return, and reform has long been recognized in the field. From the evangelical movements at the beginning of the century, through the founding of new religious movements like Mormonism or the Tractarians, up to the later nineteenth century’s focus on spiritualism and esotericism, nineteenth-century religion remained fascinated by its past even as it attempted to find its place in the present. This panel asks us to further consider the way that religion voiced its fascination with the past in new or revised methods of articulation.
In this regard, what did it mean to voice religious reform in the nineteenth century? How did these new religious movements revise the past in a way to speak to the present? What role do form and genre play in religious speech and what do they accomplish? How does religious speech resist the inclusion of new voices or make space for them? What roles did prophecy and prophetic voice, eloquence, and oratory play in the literature of this period? How does religion speak to the present by way of the past? Considering these questions and attending to religious voice, we propose, will extend our understanding of how nineteenth century literature saw itself as involved in the process of revision, return, and reform which we are being asked to consider.
And Eve first to her husband thus began …
“Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
Leads thee …”
To whom mild answer Adam thus returned …
“… nothing lovelier can be found
In woman, than to study household good,
And good works in her husband to promote.
… not to irksome toil, but to delight,
He made us …”
(Paradise Lost, Book IX: 204, 214–215, 226, 232–235, 242–243)
Specters, erasures, and forced revisions of historical shifts have characterized studies of nineteenth-century femininity. Labor narratives have attempted to recover gender as a meaningful category for study as opposed to delineating it into industrial and domestic spheres. Despite these gains, there is little popular memory of the process by which cheaper female labor was a key step in automating and undercutting all labor in an ongoing process of mechanization. For example, roughly 85 to 95 percent of workers in the 1820s American textile industry were women, and by 1850, Massachusetts employed one-third of its women between the ages of 10 and 29 in factories. From Ada Lovelace’s notes to the late-century clerical force that led to modern computing, feminine labor has historically shaped cultural shifts before becoming excluded from its histories. In Programmed Inequality, Mar Hicks writes of how “networks of labor and expertise extend into the systems themselves, constructing the social and technological bedrock” for our modern infrastructures even as those same networks are obscured and forgotten in the retelling.
In light of NAVSA’s 2023 theme of “Revision, Return, Reform,” this panel addresses how feminine labor haunts Victorian texts and contexts. With a view to connecting industrial foundations to our own current iterations of inequality, exploitation, and lost autonomy, this panel seeks to think about how systemic oppression manifests itself narratively and poetically in the works we study and the ways we study them. We are especially interested in essays that navigate formal traces and practices related to ghosts, spirits, formal remainders, re-visions, and repressed traditions.
The papers brought together in this panel might address questions including: How does the return of the apparently expired enable a re-visioning or a reform of the place of women in Victorian capitalism or Victorianist scholarship? How have the efforts of women writers engaged the ghosts of past authors, reanimating old texts into something new? How might we, as scholars, return to debates seemingly long dead to revise the labor performed by the concept of the “feminine” in Victorian literature and culture? How do quite literal lady-ghosts return to haunt their texts and our present?
Submissions will be accepted through February 25th. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words and a biographical note of no more than 125 words to Tobias Wilson-Bates (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Emma Davenport (email@example.com).
Afterlives of Eve: The Ghosts of Feminine Labor
Queer Planet: Biosociality and the Language of Desire
Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson speak of “the ways in which sexual relations organize and influence both the material world of nature and our perceptions, experiences, and constitutions of that world.” Queer ecology studies, however, not only engages queer approaches to analyzing elements of the natural environment, but also looks to ecological models to articulate a notion of queer possibility even before the scientific articulation of the sexual identity categories that lead to the modern conception of the queer. This call for papers invites abstracts that foreground notions of the biosocial constitution of nature by situating queer ecological analysis within a biosocial, planetary, or global vision. This panel will bring eco-criticism into dialogue with the queerness of humans, as well as the nonheteronormative or nonprocreative visions of intimacy and networks across species. A key consideration will be the ways in which literary works of the long nineteenth-century reformed common understandings of the natural environment to configure it as a site of possibility, nonconformity, and revision. At the same time, the panel will extend appreciation for nonhuman systems of communication and consider how scholars could potentially incorporate nonhuman modes of engagement into an understanding of global desires.
Interested participants should send a 250-word abstract and short bio to Jacob Crystal (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 24th.
Deforming the Gothic: Rethinking the Literature of Fear in the Anthropocene
For a genre famously preoccupied with the past and its ghostly resurgences, the Gothic remains alive and well. As far as definitions of the genre go, few are as succinct and durable as Chris Baldick’s, which states that a Gothic work “should combine a fearful sense of inheritance in time with a claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space.” More recently, the Gothic has been enlisted as a genre relevant to anxieties surrounding climate change, intensive resource extraction, and the sixth extinction—those anthropogenic phenomena we may collectively refer to as The Anthropocene—and it may be time to ask whether a genre traditionally rooted in fears of the past is adequate to the burden of our collective future. For this panel, we are soliciting papers on nineteenth-century, weird, and Neo-Victorian engagements with the anthropogenic Gothic. While the Gothic will long remain our “fearful inheritance,” this panel will offer some new directions for discussing the literature of fear in a time of existential crisis.
Please send proposals of ~250 words to Jed Mayer, email@example.com by Friday, February 24th.
Isobel Armstrong's Victorian Poetry at 30
This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Isobel Armstrong’s field-defining Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics (1993; 2nd edition 2019). This roundtable seeks to mark the occasion by gathering a diverse range of panelists to discuss the volume’s lasting impact. How has Armstrong’s study influenced your own work? How has it shaped the field as a whole? What aspects of the book have yet to receive the full recognition they deserve? What are the gaps or oversights in the first and second editions that need to be acknowledged?
We are hoping to feature speakers at different stages of their careers, from graduate students to senior scholars; students and early-career scholars are particularly encouraged to submit proposals. The roundtable will consist of 6-8 speakers, each of whom will present for 7-8 minutes. This will allow time for conversation among the panelists and the audience, as well as potentially a response from Professor Armstrong. Please send proposals of c. 250 words, together with a brief bio (100 words), to Erik Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 15th.
Uneven Growth in the Nineteenth Century
Revision, return, and reform signify messy, iterative processes of transformation. In this panel, we lean into this messiness by examining how uneven growth challenged Victorians’ famous valorization of linear progress. From fantastical child growth spurts to economic reversals to environmental regeneration, examples of sped up, truncated, or renewed growth permeate Victorian literature and culture. This panel invites papers that foreground Victorians’ engagements with uneven growth. How did Victorians define and redefine growth in a time of swift urban, industrial, and imperial change? What did it mean to “grow up,” or to be stunted in one’s growth? How did nonhuman forms’ ways of growing challenge linear ideas about growth? In what ways did the language of uneven growth offer new avenues and metaphors for social and economic critique? In exploring how the Victorians grappled with uneven growth, we hope to reveal the multifaceted, conflicting ways that Victorians envisioned change for their individual selves, institutions, and society.
Calls for individual panels and roundtables will be posted to this page. Please email email@example.com with a brief description of the panel or roundtable, what information you would like from potential participants, an email address where they can contact you, and the deadline by which you would like proposals for your panel/roundtable. (Please note that your deadline should be before March 1 so that you can make your selections and submit the completed panel or roundtable proposal by the March 1 deadline.)