The Modern American Exodus Narrative, ALA Panel, October 8-10, Savannah, GA

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American Literature Association, American Literature Symposium
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Seeking papers for a panel examining the modern American Exodus narrative at the ALA American Literature Symposium, October 8-10 2009, Savannah, GA.

American Exceptionalism is the belief that America and its citizens have the divinely ordained right and responsibility to serve as a "city on a hill," a moral and political guide for the rest of the world. Though the term itself entered academic discourse in the 1930s, American Exceptionalism is in large part a remnant of the Puritan legacy in the United States which continues to permeate modern day American culture. Ideas like "Manifest Destiny," the "American Dream," and the "American work ethic" all relate to this notion that in America (unlike in the "Old World" of Europe with its rigid class structure and its imperialistic aims), an individual can work hard, both physically and morally, and reap the benefits of American national belonging. Often, American Exceptionalism is represented metaphorically as the biblical Exodus narrative—a chosen people, entering into a moral and social covenant with their God, progressing through the wilderness of trials and doubt, and emerging in their Promised Land, a land of "milk and honey," where they will be rewarded for serving the God they believe to have chosen and blessed them with this divine mission.

Though the Exodus model has been used exceedingly well in order to bolster notions of American Exceptionalism, this panel seeks papers which examine how various 20th century American authors have utilized aspects of that narrative in order to challenge American Exceptionalism and the Exodus narrative's viability as a representation of American identity. How do 20th century American authors problematize the utopian rhetoric of progress and liberation inherent in the Exodus story, exploring and exposing how this metaphor does not reflect the lived experiences of many American individuals?

Send abstracts and contact information (MS Word attachment preferred) to Lucy R. Littler at by Wednesday, July 8th 2009. Panelists will be notified by Friday, August 7th 2009. Visit for convention information.