“Hawthorne and Things” MLA 2018 deadline 3/15
The Nathaniel Hawthorne Society invites paper proposals for a panel on “Hawthorne and Things” at the 2018 MLA.
We welcome proposals that consider “things” in any facet of Hawthorne’s work.
All approaches to the subject are welcome, though we encourage both Hawthorne scholars and non-specialists to consider his work in the context of the recent “material turn.” These could include approaches derived from the History of the Book, including considerations of the material production and reception of the text, critical “autobiographies” of a specific text, or readings of the several “It-narratives” Hawthorne wrote. But we also seek proposals that engage the speculative theories of recent thinkers who try to alter the relation between things and the human subject, including Bill Brown’s “Thing Theory,” Bruno Latour’s “object agency,” Jane Bennett’s theory of “vibrant matter,” and the “weird realism” of the object-oriented ontology of Graham Harman, Timothy Morton, and many others.
Things abound in Hawthorne. We hope this panel can provoke a lively discussion of what happens to our understanding of them when we move beyond conventional interpretations of symbolic meaning to focus instead on things themselves as potential makers of meaning. What happens if we take animate things in Hawthorne as literal agents or as participants in “the social life of things” (Appadurai)? Is it possible or productive to read an allegorist like Hawthorne against the grain in this way? What new lines of inquiry might open up when we do so? How might “thing theory” illuminate Hawthorne’s theorization of romance (dependent always on the centrality of things)? Conversely, what might Hawthorne’s conception of the “neutral territory” of romance, somewhere between the “actual” and the “ideal,” bring to “thing theory” or “speculative realism”? Most broadly, what might be revealed just by thinking about the category of “Hawthorne and Things”?