Assembling Among Assemblages: Corporate Forms and American Literature Before 1914

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Brynnar Swenson, Butler University; Andrew Lyndon Knighton, California State University, Los Angeles

Gilles Deleuze defines an assemblage as a multiplicity that "is made up of many heterogeneous terms and which establishes liaisons, relations between them, across ages, sexes and reigns โ€” different natures." Such a form of organization, he argues, is the product of the interactions between the various bodies โ€” physical, psychical, social, economic, linguistic โ€” that compose it. The inherent dynamism of the assemblage is mirrored in the work of those who have theorized it; the concept remains notoriously diffuse and unstable. Following Manuel DeLanda's recent work, we are eager to reconstruct and refine assemblage theory.

Deleuze himself suggestively hints at one possible direction for such a reconstruction. For while treatments of the assemblage do appear in A Thousand Plateaus, the concept is perhaps most salient in his essay, "On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature." Following his lead, this seminar insists that the theory of the assemblage is an indispensable literary-critical tool. It has undergirded studies treating phenomena ranging from the corporate origins of early American institutions to nineteenth-century systems of finance, communication, and transportation. Not only does American literature obsess over representing such flows, networks, systems, and emergent social formations, but it also necessarily forms assemblages with various other corporate entities.

We invite papers that test the potentials of assemblage theory for mapping the relationships constitutive of the American literary landscape before 1914. How can the theory of the assemblage explain the location of American literature as one subset of the planetary assemblage that is "world" literature?

The annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association will take place March 31 - April 3, 2011, in Vancouver. Please submit abstracts of fewer than 250 words to the ACLA website:

Abstracts are due by November 1, 2010.