CFP: [American] Affect and Abolitionism in the Transatlantic Enlightenment (8/30/08; collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Stephen Ahern
contact email: 
stephen.ahern@acadiau.ca

Call for Contributions to Essay Collection

The Bonds of Sentiment:
Affect and Abolitionism in the Transatlantic Enlightenment

With its emphasis on benevolent sympathy, sentimentalism gave moral and
rhetorical force to movements for the relief of poverty, for penal
reform, for abolition. Yet the sentimentalist tendency to stress the
primacy of affective bonds and to aestheticize suffering often served to
efface the power imbalances that marked relations between the affluent
and the poor, the employer and the servant, the master and the slave.
Essays sought for a collection that will explore this paradox at the
heart of the culture of sentimentality that shaped society on both sides
of the Atlantic in the eighteenth century.

A number of scholars have recently identified the institution of slavery
as a particularly vexed site where the ideals of sentimentalism come up
against the realities of social life, where the sentimental worldview can
lead to complacency and hypocrisy, and yet perhaps allow readers to
identify intensely with injustice and begin to effect political change.
This collection seeks to further investigate the politics of sentiment by
considering:

• Theories of sympathy – philosophical treatises; periodical essays.
What are the dynamics of power in play at the site of suffering? What is
the relation of the spectator to the spectacle of the body in pain? How
do theorists of sympathy reconcile self to other in a society driven by
acquisitive individualism, and governed by a mercantile system whose
brutal logic is nowhere more apparent than in the institution of chattel
slavery?
• Case studies – slave narratives; slave owner journals, letters; news
accounts; abolitionist or pro-slavery speeches, sermons, pamphlets.
How is the rhetoric of affective excess used to describe the conditions
of enslavement, the master-slave relation, the subjectivity of the
slave? Does the relentless tendency to sentimentalize experience work to
critique or to reinforce the institutions of slavery and the slave trade?
• Literary representations – antislavery poems, ballads, hymns; novels
and plays featuring the Middle Passage, plantation life, manumission.
What rhetorical strategies do fictional representations deploy in
depicting the realities of the life of the slave, either as
particularized individual or as figurative construct?

An academic press has expressed initial interest in this collection, and
a number of contributions have already been solicited. Additional essays
are sought to round out the volume; comparatist and interdisciplinary
perspectives are particularly welcome.

Please email abstract (250–300 words) and brief cv as attachments in Word
or .rtf format by 30 August 2008.

Professor Stephen Ahern
Department of English
Acadia University
stephen.ahern_at_acadiau.ca

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Received on Fri May 23 2008 - 08:24:52 EDT

cfp categories: 
american