New York City: Written, Erased, Rewritten (ACLA 2014)

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American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)

American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting
20-23 March 2014, New York University

Seminar Organizers: Matthew Scully (Tufts University) and Nell Wasserstrom (Boston College)

Rebecca Solnit writes that cities are inexhaustible, that there are layers upon layers of history underlying the ever-shifting landscape of a city. Solnit reads cityscapes, then, as palimpsests, replete with spectral traces and figures. As a global capital and site of unbounded change, New York City has served as a locus for artistic efforts to counter-map – that is, to uncover the layers that have been or could have been – the cityscape. Over the past century, authors as diverse as Henry James, Don DeLillo, and Teju Cole have attempted to address the changing landscape of New York City and its spectral traces. Focusing specifically on twentieth and twenty-first century literature, this panel is interested in aesthetic responses to the palimpsest that is New York City.

Possible Topics Include:

How have authors attempted to capture New York City's layering of histories, to map or counter-map New York City's shifting landscape?

How do texts addressing New York City as palimpsest or as spectral help us understand the modern cityscape?

Do we have a responsibility to respond to or confront the spectral figures haunting the modern city?

What types of experiences – psychological or aesthetic – emerge through interactions with the modern, spectral cityscape?

Please direct questions to Nell Wasserstrom at and Matthew Scully at

Abstracts (max 250 words) should be submitted through the ACLA website: Please select "New York City: Written, Erased, Rewritten" from the seminar drop-down list. Deadline for proposals is November 1, 2013.