CFP: Literature and the Sovereign Individual of Modernity (11/30/05; ACLA, 3/23/06-3/26/06)

full name / name of organization: 
zubin meer
contact email: 

Paper proposals are invited for the following seminar at the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Annual Conference in Princeton, NJ, 23-26 March, 2006:

Literature and the Sovereign Individual of Modernity


Seminar Organizer: Zubin Meer, York University,


Some fifty years ago, Ian Watt in his Rise of the English Novel postulated the connection between the rise of the eighteenth century English novel and the emergence of homo economicus, i.e., the model of economic rationality endemic to liberal-bourgeois, capitalist society. If "individualism" is understood in its most expansive sense—suggesting the economic individualism of Adam Smith, the political individualism of John Locke, the philosophic individualism of Rene Descartes, or the religious individualism of Martin Luther—its origins and development have long been acknowledged within the social and human sciences as an index of the transition from pre-modernity to modernity (however marked by fits and starts, dead-ends and reversals). But, recently, at least since the linguistic turn, this conceptual framework has also been called into question on the grounds of its essentialist or exclusionary figuration of the human.


Accordingly, I am interested in papers that explore literature's participation in the construction of the modern self-regulating or self-autonomous "individual." I welcome studies devoted to any historical period, from Renaissance literature to postmodern literature (with the attendant problematics of post-humanism, the death of the subject, relativism or scepticism), as well as studies on any national context, including Latin American, African, and Asian literatures, that might provide a counter-narrative or contestation to the Western claim on the rise of the (modern, Western) subject, self, or individual. I am especially interested in papers that seek to grapple with that legacy of an older sociologically-inflected literary criticism (cf. Watt, but also Adorno, Lukács, Bakhtin, et al), one that long ago attempted to undo many of the progressivist conceits of liberal selfhood via the categories of "alienation," "reification," "commodification" and "rationalization."


Abstracts should be 250 words, and submitted online before 30 November, 2005,

at At this site, you may fill out the submission form, and select the seminar, Literature and the Sovereign Individual of Modernity.


The American Comparative Literature Association annual conference is organized primarily into seminars (or "streams"), which consist either of twelve papers, if they meet on all three days of the conference, or eight to nine papers, if they meet on two days. Papers should be 15-20 minutes long to allow time for discussion. Seminar members will have to join the ACLA and register for the conference. For further information about the conference, including the format, please see


Please feel free to contact me, at, with any questions, but all abstracts must be submitted through the online form above.

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Received on Tue Nov 08 2005 - 17:13:09 EST