MLA 2020 - Literature and Liberalism

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association Conference (Seattle)
contact email: 

 Modern Language Association Conference (Seattle, Jan 9-12, 2020)

This panel aims to explore the evolving relationship between literature and liberalism, understood as a broad political, philosophical, and intellectual movement consolidating for the Anglophone world in and after the nineteenth century. Papers might explore how the rise of mass print culture shaped liberal ideals about privacy, sentiment, and rational communication; liberalism’s relationship to state institutions like the Works Progress Administration or Mass Observation and their cultural projects; the role liberal intellectuals played in shaping the history of professional literary criticism and higher education; the social meaning of literature or art for liberal political theorists like John Stuart Mill or John Dewey; or how to reconcile ongoing academic critiques of liberalism with recent efforts to recuperate or rethink a liberal tradition.


Above all, the panel seeks to promote rigorous engagement with liberal thought, rather than simply using “liberalism” as a floating signifier for reprobation. Papers will be particularly welcome that recognize the ideological history of “liberalism” as a concept, grappling with the way this term has been defined and redefined over the last two hundred years.


Please send a 250-300 word abstract and c.v. to Ian Afflerbach at by March 15, 2019