Religion and the Formation of US Literary Histories (Roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
MLA 2018
contact email: 

In The Islamic Lineage of American Literary Culture (Oxford UP, 2016), Jeffery Einboden writes that his "excavat[ion]" of "Arabic and Persion precedents that shaped U.S. authorial lives and letters" rests on the ongoing "remappings of U.S. literary origins" which have redefinined the ways we think about authorship, nation-states, and literary texts in the wake of the transnational turn.

The ways we map (and teach) literary origins (and literary histories) have long been concerned with the roles religions play in these narratives. Joanna Brooks, for example, uses the terms “American religious-literary history” and “literary-religious” to trace a new literary and religious trajectory from the writings of Jonathan Edwards to James Baldwin. Brooks presents the Edwards-to-Baldwin “narrative” not as a replacement for the Edwards-to-Emerson model disposed of by literary historians (although still employed by many undergraduate instructors as a functional shorthand) but as the first of “many possible genealogies we might trace is we are willing to take seriously American religious traditions as a form of intellectual history in the vernacular."

This roundtable will examine the relationships between religious-literary histories and the regnant (often-secularized) literary historical narratives fashioned around U.S. literary scholarship, as well as the teaching of U.S. literature.

To join this roundtable, email a 200 word abstract, CV to by 15 March 2017.