C19 Panel: American Biography in the Nineteenth Century

full name / name of organization: 
Tim Lanzendörfer / Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
contact email: 

We are soliciting paper proposals for a panel for the inaugural conference of the Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (C19) to be held at Pennsylvania State University from May 20-23, 2010.

The proposed panel would open the floor to papers on American biography. Although some significant work has already been done on biographical writing in 19th century America, most notably perhaps in Scott Casper's Constructing American Lives, there is still a vast amount of material that requires closer attention. Casper's book was framed by two questions: how Americans in the 19th century conceived of the genre, and what studying biography can tell us about American literature and culture. We are seeking papers asking the same questions in greater detail, but also papers which specifically reach beyond them to questions of literariness, of gender, of race, and of profession, among other aspects.

We would like to solicit papers that critically evaluate the development of biographical writings in the 19th century, and open the field to new approaches. Papers might address such issues as biographical theory (both contemporary and present), venues of publication (such as biographies in periodicals and magazines, biographical compendia, or biographical monographs), specific biographical subgenres (lives of merchants, sailors, theologians, or women), and the interdependencies between them. We would especially appreciate paper proposals that offer a critical theoretical approach to biography and its uses in 19th century America.

Please submit an abstract of your paper of no more than 250 words to Oliver Scheiding, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, at scheiding@uni-mainz.de, or Tim Lanzendörfer at tim.lanzendorfer@gmx.net via eMail attachment (Word or PDF format) until August 31st. You will receive confirmation of our acceptance of your proposal no later than September 15th, and we will submit our panel proposal to the conference organizers in time for the deadline on September 30th.