MLA 2014, pt II: sessions organized by the late-18c division, Jan. 9-11

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And now for the later 18c.

Below you will find the sessions organized by the Late 18c Division for this year. As with the other post, please feel free to share your thoughts about these sessions, or about MLA more generally, below. Thanks, DM

113. Have We Ever Been Secular?

Thursday, 9 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., Addison, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Division on Late-Eighteenth-Century English Literature

Presiding: Deidre Shauna Lynch, Univ. of Toronto

1. “Never: The Making of the Modern Aura,” Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, Univ. of California, Irvine

2.  “Pretending to Believe, Pretending Not to Believe,” Lori Branch, Univ. of Iowa

3. “Was Sentimentalism Secular?” Lisa M. O’Connell, Univ. of Queensland

4. “Quasi-nonsecularism; or, The Eighteenth-Century Sublime,” Richard A. Barney, Univ. at Albany, State Univ. of New York

Session Description: This session revisits customary narratives about Enlightenment and secularization and explores 18th-century studies after the “theological turn.”

235. Life: Before and after 1800

Friday, 10 January, 10:15–11:30 a.m., Addison, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Late-Eighteenth-Century English Literature and the Division on the English Romantic Period

Presiding:  Kevis Goodman, Univ. of California, Berkeley
Speakers:  Amanda Jo Goldstein, Cornell Univ.; Heather Keenleyside, Univ. of Chicago; Catherine Packham, Univ. of Sussex;Andrew Piper, McGill Univ.

Session Description:
“Until the end of the eighteenth century . . . life does not exist: only living beings.” Our two divisions will revisit Foucault’s still influential, periodizing thesis to question its validity in the light of recent work in the field and to think about what we do and do not share.

  608. War and Literature, 1754–1815
Saturday, 11 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., O’Hare, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Late-Eighteenth-Century English Literature

Presiding:  William Beatty Warner, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

Speakers:  Siraj Ahmed, Lehman Coll., City Univ. of New York; Betty Joseph, Rice Univ.; Scott Krawczyk, United States Military Acad.; Daniel O’Quinn, Univ. of Guelph

Session Description:
In the wake of the 250th anniversary of the Seven Years’ War, considered by many as the first worldwide war, we would like to open a discussion of war and literature. On both the continent of North America and the Indian subcontinent, war for empire among the European nations swept away first nations, redrew boundaries, and inflected communal identities.

MLA 2014, pt I: sessions organized by the restoration and early 18c english literature division

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In light of earlier posts urging continued representation of all three sub-periods in our 18c MLA sessions, I would urge any ASECS members attending MLA this year to attend as many sessions as possible and show your support.

Below you will find the sessions organized by the Restoration and Early 18c English Literature Division.  Feel free to comment here if you have any thoughts about the session you saw, or about MLA more generally. Thanks, DM

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“Currents of the Black Atlantic” conference

“Currents of the Black Atlantic”
13-14 March 2014, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Opening Keynote: David Scott, Columbia University

Closing Keynote: Sibylle Fischer, New York University

CFP deadline: Abstracts of 300 words or less electronically to BlackAtlanticCurrents@gmail.com by 31 December 2013.

Two decades since its publication, Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic (1993) united conversations about race, place, diaspora, and slavery within the Atlantic world. This interdisciplinary conference takes as its point of departure Gilroy’s ethos of looking outside of and challenging established categories (such as those determined by nationalist modes of thought). In the spirit of thinking both with and beyond the Black Atlantic paradigm this conference seeks to create a space for scholars to negotiate its theoretical limits while gesturing towards alternative frames and futures for the Black Atlantic. This interdisciplinary conference revisits the roots and routes, the genealogies and the futures, of The Black Atlantic.

This conference invites critical and methodological conversations among students and faculty who have been theorizing ways that rethink diaspora, transatlantic cultures, race, historiographies, and notions of “modernity.” This conference aims to bring together scholars across disciplines and bridge conversations that will shift the grounds, directions, and temporalities of the Black Atlantic.

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:

Memory, Subjectivity, and the Black Diaspora
Remapping the Spatiotemporalities of the Black Atlantic
Early Modern Atlantic Crossings and Early Transatlantic Exchanges
Engenderings and Queerings of the Black Atlantic
Sounds and Music of the Middle Passage
Transatlantic Affective Economies
Black Atlantic Matter(s): Things and Objects of the Middle Passage
Ethics, Archives, and Historiographies of the Black Atlantic
The Black Pacific; Intersections of Race and Labor
Latin American and/or Caribbean Studies and the Black Atlantic

This is the annual conference of the English Student Association at the CUNY Graduate Center. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words, along with a 3-5 line bio, contact information, and a/v requests to BlackAtlanticCurrents@gmail.com. Additionally, feel free to submit abstracts as a fully formed panels and/or roundtables. We also welcome suggestions for non-traditional conference presentations. The deadline for abstracts and other proposals is December 31st, 2013. Participants will be notified by the end of January.

For more information, visit the conference website: http://blackatlanticcurrents.wordpress.com/

Last Year’s Letter from the Exec Committee for Late-18c English Literature (Anderson, Goodman, Lynch, Macpherson, Warner) about the Proposed Reorganization

Hi folks,

Since the program committee is meeting  soon, I would suggest, yet again, that if you feel a stake in the proposed reorganization, please visit the draft proposal site to register your response ASAP. The relevant paragraphs concerning 18c studies are paragraphs 82 and 83.

There is also an online petition getting circulated by Rivka Swenson, Danielle Spratt, Deidre Lynch, and Jonathan Kramnick, which would be helpful for you to sign. Please take a look, and if you agree, sign and share with your colleagues.

Here is the very thorough response that last year’s Late Eighteenth-Century Division made to the proposal to reorganize the 18c group and reduce its conference panels.  The writers of this letter are making it available to the Long 18th and its readers, so that the 18th century scholarly community can see the efforts they have made to work with the MLA in its ongoing development.  It is clear, however, that this letter was not taken into consideration when MLA moved forward with the proposal. Take a look:

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Thanks,

David Mazella

18th century folks: please add your comments to the MLA draft proposal before September 18th

Rivka Swenson and I are trying to alert everyone working in 18th-century studies to an important discussion taking place at the MLA right now.  This is a proposed restructuring of the existing discussion groups and divisions that would drastically reduce the number of guaranteed panels for our field, and merge existing “Restoration,” “Early Eighteenth Century,”and “Late Eighteenth Century” fields into a single “Long Eighteenth Century” field.  The effect of this proposal would be to reduce guaranteed panels at the annual conference from 8 to 2, and to demand that panels be constituted from submissions from all three sub-fields.

Here, to begin with, is Pres. Marianne Hirsch’s explanation of the “document map” concerning a proposed reorganization of the MLA’s committee structure:

There are further, general remarks found at this link, but no rationale for the specific collapsing of existing 18th-century sub-fields or reduction of panels.  There is no narrative explanation for the newly constituted or merged groups or what these new names might mean.

The MLA Commons site is confusing, but please persevere until you reach this site, which contains the “document map” for the proposed changes.  On the left there are the new “groups”; you will find the new collapsed groups under the heading of “English,” with “Restoration,” “Early Eighteenth Century” and “Late Eighteenth Century” now listed as part of “The Long Eighteenth Century.”

The relevant paragraphs to comment upon are 82 and 83, which can be accessed by clicking on the panel names on the left, or by scrolling down on the numbered paragraphs on the right.

Please let the MLA Working Group, and Prof. Hirsch, hear what you think about this proposal and its specific impact on eighteenth-century studies. How would it affect you and your work?  How would it affect the work or job prospects of your graduate students?  Does this proposal reflect an up-to-date understanding of the research going on in your field?  Would it affect your willingness to attend or contribute to MLA?  And so forth.

I would also suggest that all discussion for the moment go to the MLA, so that it can be seen by the MLA leadership.  It would be helpful for all these comments to be on the MLA site by the 18th of September, in time for the Program Committee to consider the feedback.  I will observe that the total comments on the two 18th century panels have reached about 44, and that these overwhelmingly negative comments vastly outnumber the comments on the other portions. So good luck, and I hope to see your thoughts on the MLA site.

Thanks,

DM

NYC EVENT: BEFORE GLOBALIZATION?

September 20, 2013: 4:00 PM at the Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY GRADUATE CENTER
365 FIFTH AVENUE
NEW YORK, NY

Before Globalization?

This event brings together prominent scholars of colonialism, race, and religion to discuss whether or not it is possible to speak of globalization in the pre-modern era. We anticipate a lively debate that will cross period boundaries and that will address how the expansion of travel, trade, imperialism, and cultural exchange between 1600-1800 contributed to the process of globalization. Panelists: Leela Gandhi, University of Chicago; Suvir Kaul, University of Pennsylvania; Ania Loomba, University of Pennsylvania; and Feisal Mohamed, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Moderated by Kim Hall, Barnard College.

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VIA the ASECS newsletter: Julie Hayes’ President’s Column, May 2013

[Julie Hayes asked me if she could re-post her May 2013 President's Column  on the blog, and I agreed. Take a look, and hit "Reply" if you want to add to our ongoing discussion on the uses of literature and the humanities--DM]

“Why college?”

Julie Candler Hayes
@J_C_Hayes

My spring column is somewhat delayed this year (as was spring itself, in our region). The good feelings and intellectual recharge born of the April ASECS meeting in Cleveland quickly disappeared in the late-season avalanche of institutional demands. I continue to work through my stack of books on the state of American higher education. Having looked last time at Clayton Christensen’s less-than-edifying vision of disruption fueled by underpaid adjunct faculty and government-subsidized student loans to for-profits, I’m turning to two defenses of the humanities and liberal arts, Mark William Roche’s Why Choose the Liberal Arts? (2010) and Andrew Delbanco’s College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be (2012). I wanted very much to like both of these books, and there is much to enjoy in them: both are well-written, thoughtful meditations on the value of a liberal education. And yet…

I heard Mark Roche speak nearly fifteen years ago at a summer chairs’ seminars run by the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages. At the time, he’d recently finished a stint as chair of the German Department at Ohio State and had moved to Notre Dame as Dean of Arts and Letters. He spoke on ways that department chairs could promote their departments and the ideas came so quickly that I couldn’t write fast enough to get them all in my notes.[1] I picked up his 2010 book hoping for an equally intense blast of arguments for the humanities and strategies for changing the anti-intellectual bent of so much recent debate. This is a more philosophical book, however, an extended answer to the question asked by so many parents: “What can my child do with a major in…?” For Roche, the answer is three-fold. The liberal arts have intrinsic value, inspiring learning for its own sake; they cultivate the “intellectual virtues … requisite for success beyond the academy”; and they lead to the development of a sense of vocation, which he defines as “participation in a higher reality, a commitment to the transcendent.” Because the points are simple ones, the book defies simple paraphrase. It’s worth reading both for the subtlety of the ideas and for the moving evocations of personal experience, especially in the classroom. And I could not have agreed more on the reasons for serving as dean: “One can only assume such a role and persevere in it because one identifies with the goal of fostering learning, scholarship, and formation, and one recognizes the potential to impact the world more deeply in a position of leadership, even if at some level the impact is less embodied and more abstract than when working with many students and writing or researching full-time” (150).

I sighed, therefore, when I encountered an all-too familiar suggestion that college education too often fails in its mission by faculty who substitute “low ambitions” for great ideas and teach only “mediocre books that derive from faculty research interests or ideological perspectives” (32). Roche points to Stanley Fish’s May 2003 Chronicle essay, “Aim Low.” It’s unfortunate, because while Roche and Fish might never be able to speak the same language of morality and higher calling, they certainly both champion rigorous thought and eschew platitudes—Fish’s chief target in his essay.

I experienced a similar momentary disappointment in Andrew Delbanco’s book. Delbanco’s sense of what college is “for” is as high-minded as Roche’s, but as the title suggests his approach is historical and polemical. Delbanco underscores the fault-lines in self-congratulatory narratives about expanding educational access, arguing that colleges and universities “have lately been reinforcing more than ameliorating the disparity of wealth and opportunity in American society” (122) and drawing analogies between the decline of students’ educational experience and that of faculty careers: “the gap is widening between the majority and the select few” (142). His final chapter, “What is to be done?” is maddeningly brief, offering glimpses of a few “high-tech” and “low tech” solutions, before focusing, oddly, on the need for “teachers who care about teaching.” Given his own analysis of the social, political, and economic challenges facing higher education, why turn to the evils of professionalization and the purported disconnect between teaching and research?[2]

Both Roche and Delbanco are literary scholars. Presumably, we all came of age during the same period, riding the wave of the theoretical turn in literary studies in the 1970s. Their experiences were perhaps different from mine. I remain unconvinced that attentiveness to form, to the rusing strategies of language, to the imbrication of discourses within one another, is somehow alien to intellectual ambition, to educating for democracy. Au contraire, collègues!


[1] Fortunately, the talk was published: Mark W. Roche, “Strategies for Enhancing the Visibility and Role of Foreign Language Departments,” ADFL Bulletin Vol. 30, No. 2 (Winter 1999), 10–18.

[2] For an infinitely cruder version of this argument, see a recent opinion piece by Chris Buczinsky and Robert Frodeman in Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/04/30/essay-how-keep-humanities-vibrant-rejecting-elite-universities-models.