"American Literary Studies Beyond the Brink," A CALS "Unprecedented" Webinar (4/16)

deadline for submissions: 
April 16, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Center for American Literary Studies
contact email: 

Penn State’s Center for American Literary Studies presents 


“American Literary Studies Beyond the Brink” 


Friday, April 16, 2021, Noon–1:00 p.m. ET via Zoom 


 Register here 



After registering, you will receive a confirmation email 

 containing information about joining the webinar. 


The Chronicle Review introduced their recent collection “Endgame: Can literary studies survive?” with the bold statement, “The academic study of literature is no longer on the verge of field collapse. It’s in the midst of it.” The sentiments here expressed seem far less bold and more obvious in the midst of the unfolding effects COVID-19 is having on employment and funding in academia generally and American literary studies in particular. Various interrelated forces could be and have been identified as having contributed to this moment, such as changes in university funding sources, privatization of research, externalization of revenue, the increasing debt burden for students, threats to academic freedom, the shifting demands of professionalization, and the decreasing public valuation of humanistic study. This webinar approaches the demise of the profession by considering again what it means to continue in this work now, as well as the whys and hows of studying American literature and culture at this moment. What shape might American literary and cultural studies take in order to contest developments that have left the discipline on the brink of collapse? 


Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor of English, Duke University 

Wald’s published works include Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative (Duke University Press, 2008) and she is currently completing a study entitled Human Being After Genocide. Former Director of the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University, Wald serves as Co-Editor of the journal American Literature

Danica Savonick, Assistant Professor of English, State University of New York College at Cortland

Savonick’s research focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary U.S. literature, pedagogy, and social justice. Her first book manuscript is tentatively entitled Insurgent Knowledge: The Poetics and Pedagogy of Toni Cade Bambara, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich in the Era of Open Admissions. Her work has appeared in American LiteratureModern Fiction Studies, and Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the U.S. (MELUS), as well as The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. Savonick was recently named an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellow.    

Jeffrey T. Nealon, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and Philosophy, Penn State 

Nealon has published widely on contemporary American literature and culture, literary theory, and the state of the profession. Recent titles include I’m Not Like Everybody Else: Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, and American Popular Music (University of Nebraska Press, 2018), and Fates of the Performative: From the Linguistic Turn to the New Materialism (University of Minnesota Press, 2021). 


Dillon Rockrohr, Graduate Student, Department of English, Penn State  

This webinar is part of the 2020-21 CALS “Unprecedented” Webinar Series 



For additional information, please contact Sean X. Goudie, director of the Center for American Literary Studies, at sxgoudie@psu.edu