Ways of Reading: The Politics of Method (NeMLA 2021 roundtable)
The problem of method in literary scholarship continues, with the contemporary wave of “ways of reading” reanimating it through proposals of postcritique, surface reading, reparative reading, descriptive reading, distant reading, denotative reading, and so on. Many of these new approaches do their own critical work of locating and addressing the ideological implications of more traditional scholarly practices (as when Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick posits reparative reading against a tradition of paranoid reading, or when Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus advocate for surface reading against symptomatic reading). At the same time, many of these new approaches to methodology have also been brought to task for not being politically self-reflective enough.
Beyond distinct “ways of reading,” the general concept of “reading” as a scholarly activity is itself still under debate. As Elaine Auyoung recently argued, “[W]hen we refer to what literary critics do as reading, we obscure how much their interpretations are shaped by unspoken conventions involved in writing literary criticism” (“What We Mean by Reading,” New Literary History 51.1). These unspoken conventions that influence our reading habits, like the drive to cohere or find patterns, also carry political values and implications.
To that end, this roundtable joins the continued debate surrounding the politics of method. We invite short presentations on the politics underlying both traditional and new approaches to literary scholarly method, aka “ways of reading.” Presentations that provide ideological or cultural critiques of literary methodologies; that historicize and/or problematize scholarly reading and interpretation practices; or that argue for new ways of reading in contemporary scholarship are encouraged.
The deadline for presentation proposals is September 30, 2020. Virtual presentations are more than welcome! Submit here: https://cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/18838