Melville and Matter, MLA, January 9-12, 2014, Chicago

full name / name of organization: 
Timothy Marr/ Melville Society
contact email: 

The Melville Society is seeking paper proposals for its panel at the Modern Language Association conference in Chicago from January 9-12, 2014. The panel focuses on the topic of "Melville and Matter" and seeks readings of Melville's writing in the light of what has been called the "new materialism" and the "new vitalism". Melville often grounds his thinking in physical, chemical, organic, and geological processes open both to dynamic interpretation by scientific studies of his own age and current theories of immanence, emergence, networks, and assemblage in our own. For example, Melville often materialized philosophy in vital substances such as blubber, oxygen, sap, and sperm and in refined essences such as ink, attar, musk, and ambergris. To what extent does Melville graft his literary generativity with the physical forces of evolution and the "germinous seeds" of elemental energies? Melville also powerfully figured his fiction amidst such material formations as pebbles, stones, icebergs, volcanic eruptions, auroras, and stars. In line with the conference themes of vulnerability and resilience, this panel examines Melville's investment in the spell of life and the myriad ways that the natural, the literary, and the human both animate and draw shape from the complex forms and systems of "inert" things of matter. Please send a 300-500 word proposal and a two-page CV to Tim Marr ( by Friday, March 22, 2013.