Anonymity and Anxiety in Nineteenth-Century Narratives of London (Deadline: September 30, 2014), NeMLA

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Northeast Modern Language Association 46th Annual Convention, Toronto, Ontario (April 30 – May 3, 2015)
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In Poe's "The Man of the Crowd," the narrator finds himself anxiously pursuing an unknown but somehow sinister old man through the streets of London, determined to penetrate his mystery, only to ultimately conclude that he will "learn no more of him." Early in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mr. Utterson dreams of an as yet faceless, indeterminate and spectral Hyde moving at a dizzying pace "through wider labyrinths of lamp-lighted city" to "crush a child" "at every street corner." While the anonymity of the new urban experience, with its concentration of population and its circulating masses, its possibilities of chance encounters and proliferating contingencies, gave birth to the pleasures of flânerie, it also arguably opened up a new source of unease. After all, what can the nineteenth-century urban subject ever really know about the nameless multitudes that surround him or her?

The goal of this session is to explore and analyse the uncertainty and anxiety generated by the experience of anonymity in the first modern metropolis, London, and the problems of identity and identification, trust and security that emergent urban existence generates. While papers might consider crowds as an aggregate of unknowns, the panel will be primarily preoccupied by the figure to this ground, the stranger who suddenly, surprisingly stands out or comes forward, particularly in a disconcerting fashion, the unfamiliar person who disrupts, throws into question, destabilizes and even possibly imperils the subject's habitual life. Proposals on any genre of prose narrative, from the gothic and fantastic to the realist, documentary and anecdotal are welcome.

Deadline for abstracts: September 30, 2014.

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