CFP: [African-American] Making Sympathy Visible SSAWW 10/21-24, 2009

full name / name of organization: 
Kimberly Lamm
contact email: 

Making Sympathy Visible: Interdisciplinary Approaches
to Sentiment in American Women’s Writing

Panel Proposal for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers
10/21-24 2009

This panel explores the multiple ways that American women writers have
approached sympathy, focusing on an incommensurability between that term
and the sentimental, with which it is often equated. Papers might address
any of the following: Under what generic conditions have readers registered
sympathy, not only through sentimentalism but also through other genres and
modes? How can we identify sympathetic claims without sole reliance on
literary terminology to do so? How is sympathy raced, gendered, classed,
and sexualized, and how has the historically and ideologically specific
embodiments of sympathy inflected the development of a (proto) feminist
public sphere? How does studying sympathy help us better understand the
relationship between literature written by women and feminism/ the Women’s
Rights Movement?

In criticism on sympathy, we often have recourse to discourse such as
"intimacy," "understanding," "reaching out," or "transcending difference,"
where sympathy takes the familiar form of a decorous and heartfelt gesture.
Harriet Jacobs wishes not to offend the "tender ears" of her white
readership or Maria Cummins wants to "touch" her readers' hearts with
stories of the plight of an orphan. The tropes of sympathy are so common to
the work of American women writers they can become conflated with the
literary itself and slip by critical scrutiny. This panel will employ
interdisciplinary approaches to women’s writing that make the production of
sympathy visible. For example, what are the various visual and material
productions of sympathy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and how
do they intersect with and differ from its literary appearances? What are
the relations between the literary and cognitive science when we talk about
sympathy? How does sympathy align with the discourses of politics and
ethics and what role does literature play in the production of the latter

Please send a one-page abstract and one-page cv to Naomi Greyser and Kimberly Lamm by December 22nd

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Received on Mon Dec 08 2008 - 22:28:33 EST