Essay Collection: Literary History/Liberal History (Abstracts Due 8/15/2013)

full name / name of organization: 
Literary History/Liberal History
contact email: 

We invite proposals for a collection of essays on the relationship between the history of literary history and the history of liberalism. If both concepts—literary history and liberalism—emerged in the late seventeenth century and if both concepts seem obsolete, outmoded, or eclipsed in the twenty-first century, then what can we learn from the history of their entanglements and estrangements? As abstract concepts whose modes of valuation have far-reaching and closely-felt material effects, literary history and liberalism are disciplinarily and ethically distinct—after all literary history is elitist and ties us to the culture of the past while liberalism imagines progress towards individuality, equality, and universality. Yet liberalism and literary history are mutually implicated in the secular and democratic projects of modernity, and the premise of this project is that a thick description of their shared history is both timely and possibly revelatory of the telos of that history. Does their apparently mutual demise herald a new era in both politics and culture—or does this prospect of demise constitute a recurrent, persistent feature of their ongoing history, rather than the end of their history as such? We seek to avoid rehearsing debates about aesthetics and politics, or the elite literary field versus material history, or ancients versus moderns. Instead we endeavor to historicize the relationship between literary history and liberalism, in order to uncover the factors that have tied their destinies so closely together and thereby to shed light on a present moment when the futures of both seem so uncertain. The post-humanist and post-secular turns, the focus on eco-critical and biopolitical modes of analysis, and the seemingly inexorable eclipse of literary history by cultural studies pose striking challenges to the modes of valuation and cognition that the nexus of literary history/liberalism undergirded—making analysis of this nexus all the more pressing.

Contributions to the project might venture specific case studies in the entanglement of liberalism and literary history, or might focus more conceptually on some specific aspect of the relationship between the two. Possible topics include:

· the tempestuous relations of literary and political epistemologies, hermeneutics, and critique
· the periodization or the temporalities of literary history and liberal history
· aesthetic judgment, ethical judgment, and the lures of disinterest
· liberal histories of the book/histories of the liberal book
· literary circulation and/as liberal circulation
· secularization, liberalism, literary history
· literary sovereignty/liberal sovereignty
· evidentiary genres
· liberalism, literary history, and ecological critique
· neoliberalism and literary history
· failure and/as resilience in liberalism and literary history
· afterlives of liberalism and literary history

Please send 500-word proposals, along with a brief bio, by August 15, 2013. We will need to have completed essays of approximately 6,000-9,000 words in hand by July 1, 2014. We encourage submissions from scholars working in a diverse range of fields, and we welcome submissions from beginning as well as more advanced scholars. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Literary History/Liberal History
Corrinne Harol, Jessica MacQueen, Mark Simpson
Department of English and Film Studies | University of Alberta
3-5 Humanities Centre | Edmonton, AB | T6G 2E5 |