"The Literature of American Real Estate" - ALA 2014, May 22-25

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American Literature Association
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American literature begins with real estate. Columbus's and da Vaca's travelogues, Harriot's and Smith's advertisements to prospective colonists, and the Puritans' disquisitions on God's promises to their "plantations" all constructed America's vast, unexplored land as future property. However, for these and later writers, imagining America as potential real estate required a fraught negotiation between the ideal property and ideal futures they projected on to American space and the actual facts of that space, which was indifferent or even hostile to the grand schemes of religious, political, and financial speculators. This panel seeks papers from any period that speak to how American literature has taken up the problem of American real estate. How have works of literature negotiated the gap between our desires for real estate – whether worldly or idealistic – and the material facts that constrain those desires? How has American literature shaped and been shaped by particular modes of property ownership, such as the slave plantation, the Land Runs of the 1880s and 90s, or the 20th century ideal of homeownership? What can the literature of American real estate tell us about real estate speculation, past and present?

Please send a 300-word abstract and a brief bio to Leila Mansouri (lmansouri@berkeley.edu) and Michelle Chihara (mchihara@whittier.edu) by January 15, 2014. Selected papers will be included in a proposed panel for the American Literature Association's 2014 Conference in Washington, D.C., May 22-25.