Feeling in Common: Cultivating Sympathy in the Writings of George Eliot, April 7-10, 2011

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Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
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42nd Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

April 7-10, 2011

New Brunswick, NJ

Host Institution: Rutgers University
Seminar Co-Chairs: Meghan Freeman and David Sweeney Coombs

Feeling In Common: Cultivating Sympathy in the Writings of George Eliot

This seminar proposes to consider the aesthetic, social, and ethical significance of communal feeling in the writings of George Eliot. In "The Natural History of German Life," Eliot asserts that "the greatest benefit we owe the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies." The question of how sympathy and other forms of "like" feeling are to be cultivated is a thread that runs through Eliot's novels and criticism, informing her interests in art, aesthetics, and affect, natural science, community relations, and cosmopolitanism. While Eliot adopts the extension of sympathy as the primary means of overcoming solipsism and social fragmentation, her representations of moments of communal feeling continually suggest how differences of geography, class, culture, nation, and gender can complicate and limit the possibilities for its realization. Eliot's exploration of the origins, dynamics, and problems associated with communal feeling thus provides a rich site for considering nineteenth-century projects of culture formation. Among other approaches, we are particularly interested in essays that consider communal feeling in Eliot's writings in light of broader discourses and discussions of
--affect and emotional response
--physiology and other sciences of the body
--gender and sexology
--race science and critical race theory

Deadline for Abstract Proposals: September 30, 2010
Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words as a Word document attachment to Meghan Freeman (mfreeman@tulane.edu) or David Sweeney Coombs (dsc45@cornell.edu). Include with your abstract your name and affiliation, email and postal addresses, and telephone number.

Seminar papers of approximately 4000 to 5000 words are to be exchanged and read in the weeks prior to the seminar. The deadline to submit final papers for the exchange is March 15, 2011. At the session itself, all participants will offer a short presentation of their work followed by group discussion.