The Politics of Plotting - Society of Early Americanists, March 2011

full name / name of organization: 
Matthew Garrett/Wesleyan University
contact email:

This panel at the Biennial Conference of the Society of Early Americanists (Philadelphia, 3-5 March 2011) proposes to bring together a group of papers analyzing the plots of early American literature. Plot has a special role in literary culture as the central means through which narrative reshapes reality. As a result, the study of plotting is above all an inquiry into the politics of literary forms, one whose signature questions may be: What is the shape of social and political fantasy? How are competing claims about what will constitute a desirable social and political future narrativized? These questions encompass politics as such (as in studies of republicanism), but the panel aims to deal with a rich set of social and political contradictions: e.g., class antagonisms, challenges to or reinforcements of patriarchy, forms of racial conflict, normative or counternormative emplotments of sexual desire. Papers may take one of two forms: either synthetic studies of a number of texts (with attention to genre or to formal repetitions across narratives) or the close analysis of a single narrative (not limited to narrative fiction). Within these broad limits, papers may range: from recovery of under-read texts to fresh engagements with the early American narrative canon, from narratological analyses of plotting and politics to studies of the relationship between format or materiality and narrative form. Papers that aim to rigorously read the formal aspects of plot in relation to the social and historical “raw materials” from which they are built will be most warmly welcome.

Please send proposal to Matthew Garrett, Wesleyan University ( by September 20, 2010.

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