SCMLA 2014: Urban Prisons and Rural Rambles in Early American Literature
"My spirit is weary for rural rambles," Lydia Maria Child writes in Letters from New-York, for "amid these magnificent masses of sparkling marble, hewn in prison, I am all alone." Like many of her contemporaries, Child contrasts the unfeeling cruelties of urban life with the apparent "freedom" of the natural world. Not only do the "streets shut out the sky," but "the busy throng, passing and repassing, fetter freedom, while they offer no sympathy," Child complains. In contrast to these "stone structures of commercial wealth," nature offers a form of relief: "ever true and harmonious, [nature] in the glowing twilight gave me friendly welcome." Yet even this "gladsome influence" is polluted by a reminder of New York's forgotten—"for there, under the leafless trees, lay two ragged little boys, asleep in each other's arms."
This proposed special session for SCMLA's 2014 Annual Conference invites papers exploring the intersection of urban and rural life in early American texts (late eighteenth through the nineteenth century). What do representations like Child's tell us about the relationship between a natural and urban setting? How do these landscapes contribute to the construction of social inequalities? In what ways can nature produce a type of "prison" and the city its own version of "freedom"?
Please submit a 250-word abstract and a brief CV by 24 February 2014 to Rebeccah Bechtold (firstname.lastname@example.org). Panel participants must be SCMLA members by 30 April 2014.