CFP: [American] Barbaric Bards: The Epic Voices of Melville and Whitman

full name / name of organization: 
Zachary Hutchins
contact email: 

Call For Papers

Barbaric Bards: The Epic Voices of Melville and Whitman

NeMLA’s 40th Anniversary Conference
Hyatt Regency - Boston, Massachusetts

Session Description: Works by Herman Melville and Walt Whitman dominate
the literary landscape of the United States in the nineteenth century,
but little or no critical work has been done tracing the thematic and
textual linkages between these two authors. This lacuna persists despite
the fact that we know Whitman read and admired Melville’s novels before
he had even begun to conceptualize Leaves of Grass. As a reporter,
Whitman reviewed Typee and Omoo, and textual parallels suggest that he
also read Moby-Dick and Mardi. Rather than explore these potentially
fruitful connections between Whitman and Melville, however, the limited
critical work that has tenuously linked the two focuses on their
respective portrayals of the Civil War as an obvious point of common
interest. Presumably, the formal structure of Melville’s poetry and the
free verse for which Whitman is famous differ so significantly that
scholars have not been able to imagine any connection between the two
without significant overlap in content. Instead of continuing to compare
their respective careers as poets, this panel will ask participants to
connect Melville’s prose with Whitman’s poetry by answering questions
such as: In what ways do Melville’s novels and Whitman’s poetry attempt
to transcend genre? How does Melville’s radically democratic (Pierre) and
demonstrably metaphysical (Moby-Dick) prose perform the same cultural
work as Whitman’s free verse? What specific textual and thematic links
suggest Whitman’s indebtedness to Melville? That volumes connecting
Melville to John Milton and Frederick Douglass or Whitman to William
Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson have recently been published without a
remotely equivalent consideration of the ways in which these two icons of
American literature may have affected one another’s art or treated
similar issues seems a grievous critical oversight. It is difficult to
believe that the subsequent, rather sudden emergence of Whitman’s
enormous “barbaric yawp” does not owe something to Melville’s
earlier, “mortal, barbaric smack of the lip,” and this panel will provide
a launching point for more extensive investigations into the intertextual
relationship of nineteenth-century America’s two most prolific authors.
Papers investigating specific connections between Melville’s early novels
(Typee, Omoo, Mardi, Redburn, White-Jacket, Moby-Dick, and Pierre) and
Whitman’s Leaves of Grass will be given preference. Please submit your
250 word proposals to Zach Hutchins, The University of North Carolina-
Chapel Hill at:

Deadline: September 1, 2008

Please include with your proposal:

Name and Affiliation
Email address
Telephone number
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee)

The complete Call for Papers for the 2009 Convention will be posted in
June at:
Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA
panel; however panelists can only present one paper. Convention
participants may present a paper at a panel or seminar and also present
at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.

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Received on Fri Aug 01 2008 - 07:17:13 EDT