CFP: Character and Characterization in Narrative Literature (9/15/06; NEMLA, 3/1/07-3/4/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Caroline Brooks Giordano
contact email:

Call for Papers

Panel Title: Character and Characterization in Narrative Literature

38th Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 1-4, 2007
Baltimore, Maryland

This panel will re-examine the status of character across a wide range
of genres and time periods in narrative literature. Despite the
obvious prominence of characters themselves within narrative texts,
there are few studies of what the concept of character itself might
entail. This relative scarcity of literary-critical work on character
is due in part to the way that characters straddle a conceptual divide
between semantic constructions and human beings: as Mieke Bal notes,
“the character is not a human being, but it resembles one.” In other
words, we as readers of narrative often treat characters as
psychological essences rather than as configurations of words on a
page. Or, by entering what cognitive scientist Richard Gerrig has
called “narrative worlds,” many of us experience characters as
humanlike creatures at the same time that we realize and appreciate the
formal techniques that mark their constructedness. Recent works of
literary criticism—most notably Alex Woloch’s The One vs. The Many—are
beginning to discuss character’s seemingly contradictory valences in
detail. Such works show us that an increased understanding of how
character operates is vital to studies not only of narrative, but of
psychology (“character development”), literary representations of moral
systems and “moral character,” and the history of literary
genres/forms. Accordingly, this panel proposes to explore the many
meanings and uses of character by soliciting papers that consider
and/or utilize character as a conceptual focus. Papers may present new
theoretical models of character, or they may analyze the construction
of character and/or methods of characterization in particular narrative
texts. Questions that might be addressed include:

• How might we begin to define character, and how might such a
definition contribute to literary/narrative studies?
• What do we mean by “character development”?
• What are the historical/cultural implications of
character/characterization within particular texts?
• How does character operate differently within different narrative genres?
• How does the “formal” definition of narrative character relate to
characterization as a moral system?
• How might psychology and cognitive science help us explain our often
powerful reactions to literary characters?

Papers from any time period and on any genre of literary narrative are
welcome. Please submit abstracts of approximately 300 words (or
queries about the panel) to Caroline Giordano (

Deadline: September 15, 2006

Please include with your abstract:

Name and Affiliation Email address Postal address Telephone number
A/V requirements (if any)

For the complete Call for Papers for the 2007 Convention, please visit: Interested participants may submit abstracts to more
than one NeMLA panel; however panelists can only present one paper.
Convention participants may present at a paper session panel and also
present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.

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Received on Wed Jun 07 2006 - 10:15:20 EDT

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