Mental Illness in Early and Antebellum America (ALA 2023)

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society
contact email: 

The Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society solicits proposals for two panels to be presented at the 2023 American Literature Association Conference. The conference will take place May 25-28 at the Westin Copley Place in Boston, Massachusetts.

The society seeks papers on the topic of mental illness and mental health in early national and antebellum America. We welcome proposals that address Catharine Maria Sedgwick's own works (including her published works, her letters and journals, and her manuscript autobiography) or writings by her contemporaries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Suggested topics might include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Mental illness in the Sedgwick family (including Catharine's mother Pamela and her brother Henry)
  • Depictions of mental illness in Sedgwick's works ("crazy" Bet in A New-England Tale, Bessie Lee in The Linwoods, Aunt Sarah and Mrs. Tallis in Married or Single?, Seton in Clarence)
  • Marriage, domesticity, and mental illness
  • Mental health treatment (or lack thereof) in the early national and antebellum periods
  • Race and class in the construction of mental illness
  • Religion and mental health ("gloomy" Calvinism, Shakers and other new religious movements)
  • Mental illness and/as disability
  • Criminality, corporal punishment, and mental illness 
  • Seduction, sexual assault, and the construction (and destruction) of women's mental health

Submit proposals of around 250 words to Ashley Reed (akreed@vt.edu) by January 15, 2023.