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The title of this panel does not refer to the several trips Melville took during his lifetime, or to the many voyages depicted in his novels. It evokes, rather, the influential essays "Traveling Theory" (1983) and "Traveling Theory Reconsidered" (1994), in which the late Edward Said argued that a text's movement from its point of origin to other geographical locales and historical situations is never a facile process. As a text is unhinged, transferred, translated, and institutionalized in a new setting, explained Said, it meets changing conditions of acceptance and unexpected forms of resistance. On the one hand, its movement may tame the force that was provoked by its original circumstances and render it subdued and sterile. But on the other, its movement may rekindle the text's original fire, charge it with new energies and meanings, or bring it into new prominence.
We invite papers that consider the shifting forms of Melville's work as it traveled beyond its native bounds and into other historical and national settings. What conditions of acceptance did Melville's novels, short stories, or poems encounter in non-U.S. settings, and what forms of resistance? What place did Melville come to occupy in literary canons around the world, compared with his American hypercanonization? What are some of the histories and politics that accompanied the many translations of Melville's works into other languages? How did Melvillean themes, styles, tropes, and symbols impinge on non-American literary and artistic works? How were they deployed in the realms of public discourse, pedagogical institutions, and political conflicts in different countries? What economies of loss and gain, domestication and radicalization, have governed the fate of Melville's texts in their 150 years of international circulation?
Presently there is a growing number of articles and books that contextualize Melville's oeuvre in non-U.S. cultures and in languages other than English. Leviathan's special issue on "Melville in Japan"; recent and upcoming conferences on "Melville and Conrad in the Space of World Culture," "Melville and the Mediterranean," and "Melville and Rome"; up-to-date lectures and publications on translations of Melville's works to such languages as Chinese and Arabic – these are but a few examples. The 2011 MLA panel will contribute to this emergent area of interest, with the hope of advancing not a universal view of Melville, but a planetary one.
Please send a one-page proposal by March 15th, 2011.