NEMLA, Montreal (4/7-11, 2010): "Romancing America: Authorship and the Writing of Historical Romance (Deadline 9/30, 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Sean Kelly, Wilkes University
contact email: 

NEMLA 4/7-11 2010, Monreal

"Romancing America:Authorship, National Identity, and the Writing of Historical Romance"

In his book on Hawthorne, Henry James famously enumerated the many absences—intellectual, social, and civic—that contributed to the impoverished state of early American culture. In this context, Washington Irving complained in 1812 that "in a nation where everyone is busy . . . literary leisure is confounded with idleness" (xii). The challenge for early American writer, it seems, was not only that they had to create literary works for the public's consumption within a context of relative cultural scarcity, but that they also had to invent the terms by which those literary productions would be viewed as meaningful within an increasingly industrious society. Consequently, the historical romance in America, as it was practiced by Irving, Cooper, Sedgwick, Hawthorne, among others, might be best viewed as a discourse of negotiation and anxious self-authorization. This panel will examine the American historical romance as it was employed by its practitioners to simultaneously address vexing questions about American identity, the role of authorship, and historical origin. Please send 250-word abstracts to Sean Kelly via email ( by September 30, 2009.