Haunted Masculinities: Men and Their Ghostly Selves in American Literature (MLA special session)

full name / name of organization: 
Sharon Becker

Haunted Masculinities: Men and Their Ghostly Selves in American Literature Proposal for special session for MLA 2009

For this proposed special session, the panel seeks to understand why the journey to male identity in American literature is so often written as a haunted pursuit. Whether it is Henry James' Spencer Brydon wrestling with his spectral American alter ego in "The Jolly Corner," Jack Kerouac's use of the figure of the Shrouded Traveler throughout On The Road, or John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom describing a catheter tube as a "dark ghost"
penetrating his body, male characters investigating what it means to be a man are beset with terrifying visions of death, spectral presences, and various things that go bump in the night. Why? What is so terrifying about being a man in American literature and culture? Why do American writers frequently turn to ghosts, haunted spaces, and absences in order to explore the particular difficulty with which men come to a sense of self? Although investigations of ghost stories are expected, the approach to what is a haunted pursuit of male identity or subjectivity is also flexible. Ghosts, haunted houses, preoccupations with death or dead people, absences, spaces, and pauses within the text itself are all manners in which haunting stalks a narrative, and are all welcome approaches to the topic. A focus on 20th and 21st century literature is preferred but all time periods (or comparisons between texts across time periods) will absolutely be considered.

Interested panelists should submit a 250 word abstract and a recent CV via E-mail by March 20, 2009 to Sharon Becker at sharon_becker@redlands.edu.
Queries welcome. Those interested in acting as a respondent for the panel (but who may not want to contribute a paper) are encouraged to contact the organizer of this panel as well.

All panelists chosen for participation must be members of the Modern Language Association by April 7, 2009.