Reform and Social Justice in 19th-century American Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association/NeMLA
contact email: 

19th-century America was the site of various reform movements: antislavery, women's rights, education, temperance, penal reform, et al. This panel asks how various literary figures and other intellectuals endorsed and/or resisted these movements.  Figures who might be considered include Louisa McCord, Catharine Beecher, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Peabody, Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Alcott, Hawthorne, Melville, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many others.  We are interested in the ways that attitudes toward particular issues changed over time, in the relative influence different writers exercised, and in the perhaps unintended consequences of some of these movements (the Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier, for example, never intended that slavery be brought to an end by a war that killed over 600,000 Americans).  The impact of ideas like Social Darwinism or naturalism might offer another approach to this topic.  Please send abstracts of up to 300 words to Gary Grieve-Carlson ( and to Izumi Ogura ( by September 30.  This panel will be part of the Northeast Modern Language Association's 2021 convention on March 11-14 in Philadelphia.