Scandalous Profession(al)s: Sovereignty, Authority, and Secrecy

deadline for submissions: 
July 28, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA), 92nd Annual Conference (Virtual)
contact email: 

This panel welcomes proposals for papers or projects addressing any aspect of professional sovereignty, authority, or secrecy within or between professions. We invite conversations about the functions or representations of sovereignty, authority, or secrecy within any genre of Literature.

In Chapter 1 of The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Paul Starr writes, “Power, at the most rudimentary personal level, originates in dependence, and the power of the professions primarily originates in dependence upon their knowledge and competence…. [T]heir interpretations often govern our understanding of the world and our own experience. To most of us, this power seems legitimate.” Starr closely examines and tracks the sovereignty and authority of the medical profession within and about the United States. More broadly, however, he provides a model for narrativizing the developments and trajectories of sovereignty and authority within larger and more complex cultural, political, economic, and social systems.

The pursuit or maintenance of professional sovereignty and/or cultural authority creates a narrative that inherently contains issues of sectarianism, secrecy, feuding, transgression, rebellion, and ultimately, scandal. Such narratives afford discussions on a broad array of topics both within and about Literature.

Potential topics regarding the pursuit of professional sovereignty and its relation to scandal include, but are not limited to:

  • the production and/or consumption of literary texts
  • the production and/or consumption of literary analysis
  • the training of literary scholars and instructors
  • literary representations of specific professions or industries
  • literary representations of socioeconomic, cultural, or political authority either in flux or as barriers to access
  • specific literary genres and their internal traditions/motifs of sovereignty or external expressions of sovereignty

Please submit a 300-word abstract or proposal, a brief bio, and any A/V requests by July 28, 2020 to Paul Blom, UNC-Chapel Hill, at