NEMLA 2015: Oceanic Turns The Politics of Hemispheric American Studies

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Northeast Modern Language Association

This roundtable examines the locations, terminologies and methodologies that shape the oceanic turn in contemporary American literary studies. The recent twentieth anniversary of Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic reminds us that an oceanic rather than a national framework has influenced the direction of literary and cultural studies for the last two decades. During this time studies of American, British, and African Diasporic literature have taken a decidedly oceanic turn. Current scholarship reflects renewed interest in the impact of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans on the creation of extra-national literary imaginaries. Yet, despite what we might consider a degree of academic canonization, the oceanic turn remains as slippery as it is suggestive. In the introduction to a special issue of Atlantic Studies, Hester Blum lists 'Atlantic, Black Atlantic, transnational, or hemispheric studies' among others, as the fields that compose and create the oceanic turn. Taking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as our loci, the goal of this roundtable is to tease out the material conditions, literary constructs, and social imaginaries that function as oceanic spaces in literary and historical discourses. How do oceans impact the relationships between capitalism and slavery, the Enlightenment and racial oppression, modernity and violence, and imperialism and empire? What kinds of erasures and revelations occur when oceans become crucial vectors in the configuration of hemispheric American literatures? We contend that the oceanic turn in American literary studies signals a growing interest in the intermingling of literary criticism, cultural studies, and history as scholars question the methods, objects of analysis and archives that make oceanic studies possible. This form of humanistic interdisciplinary studies produces not only new modes of relation, but also challenges the way we think about disciplines. We are interested in how the oceanic turn, and its necessary dissonances and connections, makes new issues of circulation, migration and transportation in the field of hemispheric American studies.

Please submit 250-word abstracts via the NeMLA website at

Deadline: September 30 2014

Contact Laurie Lambert ( or Bridget McFarland ( with any questions.