CFP: Literary Reception during the American Civil War, ALA 2012, deadline for proposals December 10

full name / name of organization: 
Reception Study Society (RSS)

Reception Study Society (RSS) Call for Papers: Literary Reception during the American Civil War

American Literature Association Conference in San Francisco, CA, May 24-27, 2012

In May, 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in a journal entry: "Nothing alive but the military. Bookselling dead." The Southern author William Gilmore Simms joined him in this assessment of the literary marketplace during the war when he commented in a letter to a friend that "nobody reads nowadays, and no one prints." And yet, as recent scholarship on Civil War literature and print culture has shown, the production, consumption, and reception of literature during the war years were anything but dead. War-related topics and poetic and fictional responses to the war enjoyed a remarkable popularity, including, for instance, such wartime bestsellers as Augusta Jane Evans' novel Macaria, or, Altars of Sacrifice (1863), which attracted the attention of readers both in the North and South. This panel, then, aims to shed new light on how wartime texts were received in Civil War America, both by critics and average readers. Furthermore, the panel will examine how the responses of different readers -- including both individual readers and specific communities of readers such as soldiers and subscribers to periodicals – provide an intriguing and understudied perspective on print culture and the literary marketplace in America during the Civil War.

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:
- critical reviews of wartime bestsellers published in periodicals
- individual responses to reading as documented in diaries and journals
- literary societies during the Civil War
- the place of reception studies within the field of Civil War print culture
- studies of sales figures for booksellers and publishers operating during the war
- the reception of dime novels and other sensationalist fiction
- perspectives on wartime literary reception informed by considerations of gender, class, race, and ethnicity
- studies of discourses on reading within the African American or immigrant press

Please send abstracts (250 words) and a one-page C.V. by December 10 to Vanessa Steinroetter, Department of English, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas 66621; email: