CFP: [American] Class Formation/Class Conflict and 19th C. Am. Lit - ALA 2009

full name / name of organization: 
Michael J. Davey
contact email:

Call for Papers
2009 American Literature Association Conference
May 21-24, 2009
Boston, MA.

The Representation of Class Formation and Class Conflict in American
Literature, Romance to Realism.

Papers sought for panel at ALA 2009, Boston, MA, on the representation of
class formation and class conflict in American fiction from Brockden Brown
to James, Early American novel through Am. Realism including Wharton,
Howells and others.

In the period demarcated by Charles Brockden Brown’s brief outpouring of
the first American novels and the early stages of Henry James’ long
literary ascendancy, the US underwent rapid and profound social, economic
and political change. These changes profoundly impacted social hierarchy
in the US, fostering both class formation (the emergence of the middle
class being the most important example) and class struggle (The Astor
Place Riot). By mid-century, sharp differences between the lived
realities of manual and nonmanual workers were manifest, resulting in
profound and often explicit tensions among the different social classes.
These tensions have been well-documented by historians and have formed the
basis for much important work by New Historicists, scholars of the
history-of-the-book, and reception theorists, among others. Two important
implications of such work are clear: class formation and class struggle
emerged concomitantly with the rise of a national culture of letters, and
the experience of class formation and class conflict lead some writers to
question whether the American experiment in democracy could withstand the
pressures of burgeoning class struggle. American novelists from Brown to
James bore witness to the rise of social hierarchy in the US, documenting
in the process the unique tensions and cultural practices which emerged in
this country as a result of the interplay among American and European
forms of social hierarchy, nascent industrial and consumer capitalism, and
the democratic mythos. Although much work has been done on the
representation of class in American novels written in the Gilded Age and
in the early twentieth century, this has seldom been the case with novels
written prior to the Civil War. Historical studies of race, class and
gender certainly are legion in nineteenth-century American literary
studies; however, the representation of class and class struggle remain
underrepresented as compared to studies of race and especially of middle-
class domesticity and sentimentality.

This panel seeks to remedy that neglect by exploring the ways American
romance, American domestic and sentimental fiction, and American realism
figured class formation and class conflict. Papers on any aspect of 19th
century literary history/theory and social class will be considered.

Please submit abstract and c.v. to Dr. Michael Davey at Deadline for abstracts is Nov 1.
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Received on Mon Sep 22 2008 - 09:11:12 EDT

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