Roundtable on American Regionalism and Modern Technology, May 24-27, 2012

full name / name of organization: 
American Literature Association Conference, San Francisco

The United States modernized unevenly. By the latter half of the nineteenth century, the effects of new technologies registered in significant ways in American modernist art and culture, reflecting the emergence of industrial, cosmopolitan cities and new ways of life. Yet the proliferation of emerging technologies also affected the culture in parts of the United States beyond the modern metropolises. American "regional" cultures—broadly understood to include art and literature, visual and material culture, and an array of vernacular and folk traditions—absorbed the influences of technological change while maintaining numerous distinctive regional identities and forms.

This roundtable will bring together papers that explore the complex relations between technology and region in the United States across a "long" modernist period, from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. We seek abstracts that examine particular places, theorize region in innovative and interdisciplinary ways, and examine regional encounters with specific technological developments, which may be understood broadly. The session as a whole seeks to understand how regional American experiences of technology have complicated, enriched, and troubled both the traditions of American modernism and the ongoing efforts to come to terms with the legacies of these encounters in a contemporary American culture.

Papers could explore some of the following areas:

• American literary regionalism's relations with technological change
• Regionalism and critical or social theory
• Political institutions, technology, and regional culture
• Ethnic, immigrant, racial, or nationalist minority identity in regional context
• Race or identity as technology
• Modes of transportation (railways, automobiles, air travel, and so on)
• Mechanization and agriculture or food distribution networks
• Film, photography, and other visual media in regional context
• Radio, early television, and regional aspects of mass communication
• Sheet music, music halls, rural entertainment circuits
• Jazz, blues, country music, early rock and roll, and regional musical genres
• Mail order products, RFD, and other networks of distribution
• The fashion industry in regional permutations
• Domestic and public architecture, regional planning, and human geography
• Regional urbanism or cultures of the regional city
• Nature, ecology, conservation, resource utilization, and technology
• The military-regional complex

The organizers of this proposed session are Sarah Gleeson-White (University of Sydney), Robert Jackson (University of Tulsa), and David A. Davis (Mercer University). The roundtable will feature six or seven short statements—about eight minutes reading time—that should provoke greater inquiry into this field of discourse. Proposals of about 250 words should be sent to by January 1, 2012.