CFP: [Ethnic] Racial and Ethnic Difference in the Short Story (12/15/07, collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Tom Morgan

Representing “These United States”: Racial and Ethnic Difference in the
Short Story

The short story’s position in late-nineteenth century literary production
has been marked by the contradictory tasks that it was expected to
perform. On the one hand, it was at times used by authors to represent and
record the distinctive regional and cultural communities that existed
within the borders of the United States, and on the other, it was put to
work by editors, critics, and authors in the project of unifying the
nation as a collective whole. The quote from the title of the collection,
taken from Brander Matthews’ The Short-Story: Specimens Illustrating Its
Development (1907), reflects the use value of the short story in
representing the disparate parts of the nation as a collective whole; as
Matthews asserts, writers of the short story “have been exploring these
United States; and they have been explaining the people of one state to
the population of the other, increasing our acquaintance with our fellow-
citizens and broadening our sympathy.” While the “sympathy” offered here
claims to connect “fellow-citizens” with their peers in different regions,
it threatens to elide the specific types of difference that exist within
the nation, downplaying the lines of difference created by race, class,
and gender.

In taking up this paradox of representation, we hope to reframe
discussions of racial difference through analyzing the cultural narratives
that concurrently operated in late nineteenth century short story
production. Contributions might explore issues such as:

-the relationship between ethnography and anthropology and the production
of short fiction;
-the ubiquity of racial pseudo-science in the consolidation of racial
-the emergence of photography along with print culture’s increasing
ability to effectively reproduce imagery on a massive scale;
-the exoticization of local color characters and locales;
-the tensions between realism and regionalism as discursive literary
practices, as well as the role each played in coalescing assumed notions
of difference;
-the unprecedented growth in periodical production along with the
fascination concerning the presentation of regionally “authentic” people;
-the tension between caricature and “faithful portrayal” in regional
-and the complex slippage between these diverse categories in terms of the
cultural and aesthetic ideologies that they espoused.
Through examining the connections between the short story’s role as a
literary genre and the reciprocal cultural narratives that traverse this
genre, we hope that the collection will explore how the short story
participated in the aestheticization of race, a process that made such
differences appealing to a nation of readers from both politically
progressive and conservative perspectives. In focusing on the ways that
these depictions operate as an index for the inclusion and/or exclusion of
those who were marked as different, we want to examine how the fictional
production of racial categories influenced the preferred fictions of
American lifeâ€"that while the fictional production of race was increasingly
becoming unmanageable, it nonetheless continued to exert tangible effects
upon those who where forced to live under its organizing rhetoric. We are
especially interested in essays that will expand the scope of the project
beyond the traditional black/white dichotomy that often frames the
discussions of race in the period; we would like to include work that
examines Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and also
the white ethnic minorities that increasingly populated American cities
and appeared in the pages of American periodicalsâ€"Jewish Americans, Irish
Americans, and even rural Southern whites. By framing the collection
around a broader vision of the actual set of differences that existed, our
intention is to create a collection that will better reflect the
complexity and diversity of American heterogeneity at the turn of the last
Further, this project seeks to explore the process that writers used to
negotiate the formal as well as the cultural expectations of editors and
readers, locating the tensions and paradoxes within the short story form
as it related to American literary production. In doing so, this
collection hopes to critically engage the role that the short story played
in the system of literary production; it seeks to complicate the relations
that existed between the different literary categories (regionalism,
realism, romance) and generic forms (novel, short story) that flourished
in the period. Contemporary scholars have examined the role of race in the
period, as well as the role of regionalism in literary production, but the
relationships between the short story, racial categories, and notions of
region need to be more rigorously unpacked to better understand the larger
set of literary dynamics that mutually constitute and configure the
literary standards of the period. Our hope is that this collection will
contribute to the ongoing work in American literary criticism that seeks
to construct a more complex vision of literary history by allowing us to
understand the role that our national fascination with race and difference
played in creating the literary genres that existed at the turn of the

Please send a proposal of approximately 500-1000 words or a draft of the
paper along with a brief CV by December 15, 2007 to either (or both) of
the editors below (e-mail is fine). Accepted essays will be expected
around Fall 2008.

Contact Information:

Dr. Tom Morgan
University of Dayton
Department of English
300 College Park Drive
Dayton, Ohio 45469-1520

Dr. Bill Hardwig
Department of English
University of Tennessee
301 McClung Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996-0430

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Received on Wed Aug 29 2007 - 19:37:32 EDT