Lincoln and Nineteenth Century American Culture March 9-11 2012 Claremont McKenna College

full name / name of organization: 
Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
contact email: 

Moderator: John Channing Briggs, University of California, Riverside
Harry Jaffa, Claremont Institute
Daniel Walker Howe, University of California, Los Angeles

Lincoln is a writer and speaker whose legacy includes the perpetuation of an idea and practice of eloquence that overlaps with statesmanship, practical politics, and literary accomplishment. His prose reminds us that certain kinds of non-fiction were welcomed into the literary canon, as it was broadly understood, until the disciplinary specializations of the twentieth century tended to separate them from works that could be studied as literature for their own sakes, sometimes exclusive of their authors' philosophical or historical preoccupations. Today a trend in the opposite direction has also ignored the tradition of eloquence by radically politicizing and historicizing the study of literature, to the point that many scholars have abandoned the humanities while claiming to serve them. Some scholars in the social sciences no doubt sense a similar problem in their fields. As do many journalists, many scholars in both fields are now long in the habit of reducing eloquent texts to mechanisms for winning advantage or as symptoms of impersonal forces. As we discuss the meaning of what he wrote and said, what do we learn from Lincoln about the inadequacy of our current disciplinary preoccupations in political science, history, and the study of literature? In particular, what do we learn about Lincoln's eloquence and about literature more broadly understood?

In celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, we invite papers on any aspect of Lincoln's Life and Work. Papers might consider his great public speeches, the Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses; early works such as the Lyceum and Temperance Addresses; his correspondence with Joshua Speed and others; his poetry, prose satire, or fiction; his debates with Stephen Douglas; the run-up to and aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation; his development of Whig ideas and his anticipations (or contrasts with) Republican ones; his ideas about democracy, equality, and race. Papers may consider how others responded to Lincoln (Melville, Frederick Douglass, Whitman) but should not lose sight of what Lincoln actually said and did.

Proposals (300 words) should be sent by December 15 to Professor John Channing Briggs, University Writing Program, HUMANITIES SOCSCI, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521 (or