C19 -- Historicism Unsettled: Reading the Nineteenth Century (March 17-20 2016)

full name / name of organization: 
Andrew Kopec/C19: Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
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In their introduction to surface reading, Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best find in nineteenth-century American literature an analog to describe their method: "As Poe's story 'The Purloined Letter' continues to teach us," they write, "what lies in plain sight is worthy of attention but often eludes observation." Of perhaps of more immediate relevance to the members of C19, for Russ Castronovo, in his recent J19 essay "Occupy Bartleby," Occupy Wall Street's appropriation of "Bartleby, the Scrivener" invites a series of meditations on the transtemporal unsettlings of Melville's powerful story, the differences between professional criticism and public reading practices, and whether or not the public's commitment to reading Melville analogically unsettles critique in the academy. For Marcus and Best, as for Castronovo, then, nineteenth-century writing does not so much unsettle history as it challenges us to unsettle historicist critique itself.

While this proposed roundtable seeks considerations of how the discourses of nineteenth-century America enable (anti)reading practices—surface, distant, dialectical, zoomable, analogical, and so on—at the same time, it seeks contributions that turn to C19 writing to revitalize orthodox reading in Americanist scholarship: historicist critique. If we are suffering from the "historicist blues" (as Jennifer Fleisner has it in a recent issue of ALH), what ways and means present themselves as cures for historicist exhaustion?

Please submit 250-word abstracts and 100-word professional bios to Andrew Kopec (kopeca@ipfw.edu) by 10 August 2015.