M/MLA (Nov. 8-11, 2012): A Model American?: Contemporary Literary Exemplars and their Debt to the Past (due March 7)

full name / name of organization: 
W Brett Wiley
contact email: 

CFP for Proposed Special Session of the 2012 M/MLA (Cincinnati, Nov. 8-11, 2012)

In early American literature, some figures and characters either were heralded as national icons or became celebrated models for the citizenry, revered as examples to be modeled and promises of an idealized future. From John Smith, Farmer John, and Benjamin Franklin to Emerson's "Man Thinking," Frederick Douglass, and Silas Lapham, many characters, whether intentionally or not, have been identified as quintessential Americans. As time passed, these representative figures become less frequent or more problematic—such as Strether in James' The Ambassadors—complicating the concept of an idealized, or merely realized, "American." In the twentieth century, the representatives are more complicated, if identifiable. Who are the national icons of contemporary literature? What do they represent? And, most importantly, how are these contemporary figures indebted to those who have come before?

Please send abstracts of up to 500 words and a CV or brief biography to Brett Wiley (bwiley1@mvnu.edu) by March 7, 2012.