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by Sarah Mesle last modified Jun 10, 2015 07:03 AM

The C19 conference is again offering seminars that emphasize conversation and interactive dialogue as an alternative to traditional paper and roundtable formats. Seminars will provide participants the opportunity to have a collaborative conversation around a particular topic. Seminars will be capped at 15 participants and will be run by co-facilitators with expertise in the topic. Each participant will submit a five-page position paper before the conference to be read in advance by the other participants so that seminar time can be reserved for discussion. Seminar participants will be listed in the program.

Seminar Proposals are due September 1, 2015. For submission information visit our conference website.

These are the seminar topics for 2016:

Elizabeth Freeman, UC Davis
Peter Coviello, University of Illinois-Chicago

In the past ten years, scholarship addressed to questions of queerness and temporality has taught us a great deal about sex, its multiple histories, its normalizing structures and errant shapes, even its rhythms. In the wake of this work, Americanists have developed new fluencies for discussing the range of (often unlikely) forms sex might take across the whole of the American nineteenth century, before the solidification of those familiar sexological taxonomies (homo- and heterosexual, for instance) that make up so much of the regime of “modern” sexuality whose emergence Foucault long ago charted. But as dynamic writing by scholars like José Muñoz, Dana Luciano, Jordan Stein, Jordana Rosenberg, and many others have suggested, work in and around queer temporality has offered, too, sharp interventions into a broader set of specifically methodological impasses and dilemmas. These have entailed matters of identity and historiography, affect and sociability, time and discipline, all of which might involve the study of wayward erotics in the nineteenth-century, but might also enable pursuits grounded otherwise. In this seminar we are especially interested in considering what purchase the methodological innovations of queer temporality studies can offer us with respect to questions we might understand as, if not identical to the history of sexuality, adjacent to it, or in unsettled relation to it: questions about secularism, for instance; or about the history of empire and its entangled politics of gender, indigeneity, and racialization; or about deployments of biopower more generally across the century.

Elizabeth Freeman is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis, and the co-editor, with Marcia Ochoa, of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. She is the author of The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture (2002) and Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (2010). She edited a 2007 special issue of GLQ titled “Queer Temporalities.”

Peter Coviello is Professor of English at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is the author of Intimacy in America: Dreams of Affiliation in Antebellum Literature (2005) and Tomorrow’s Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-Century America (2013), a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Studies and Honorable Mention for the Alan Bray Memorial Book Prize from the MLA’s GL/Q Caucus. With Jared Hickman he co-edited a 2014 special issue of American Literature entitled “After the Postsecular.”


Erica Amstrong Dunbar, University of Delaware
Krystal Appiah, Library Company of Philadelphia

Recent attention to social protest movements is articulated by rallying cries such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name.” Both are calls to acknowledge the meaning of black lives in 21st-century America. Our session, “#Sayhername: African American Women in the Archive” will focus on the work of recovering early African American women’s scholarship, both before and during the digital revolution. For scholars of women and African Americans who find their home in the nineteenth century, we often struggle with the deafening archival silences regarding the lives of black women. While the access attached to digitization has opened doors for larger audiences, nineteenth-century scholars of women and people of African descent must work to engage in new digitization technology but also hold tight to older techniques of gathering and interpreting evidence.

Participants are invited to submit papers that consider how blended methodologies can enhance our goals to speak the names and lives of black women who far too frequently never make it into the written record.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is an associate professor of Black American Studies and History at the University of Delaware. Her first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University Press in 2008. She has recently participated in several documentaries, including “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and “The Abolitionists,” an American Experience production on PBS. Dunbar’s second book, “Never Caught: The President’s Runaway Slave Woman,” will be published by Simon and Schuster in 2016.

Krystal Appiah is curator of African American history and reference librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia. She previously worked as a research archivist at the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland project at the Maryland State Archives, where she conducted outreach to the general public and improved access to the papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society.


Thomas Augst, New York University
Molly O’Hagan Hardy, American Antiquarian Society

What opportunities do the resources and methods of digital humanities offer for discovering and (re)interpreting material archives and cultural politics of  C19 literature and history?  And how might 21st century tools of research and communication unsettle formats of publication and conventions of analysis in ways that open the making of scholarship to new communities within and beyond the academy? This seminar will operate as a workshop in project development, offering collaborative critique and practical guidance in best-practices of design, preservation, and communication most pertinent to participant projects.  Proposals are warmly invited from new as well as established scholars, describing projects ranging from the speculative to the well-established. Projects might focus on opportunities and challenges at any point along the rapidly changing life-cycle of scholarship — from the “back-end” acquisition and organization of archival research, to the modeling of humanities data for textual, spatial, and social analysis, to the “front-end” of web interfaces and applications.

Participants will submit five-page papers that present project objectives and indicate: 1) Genre of scholarly writing to which the participant is writing [digital dissertation companion, grant application, website review and/or use-testing, short or long-form on-line ‘blog’ essay, etc.] 2) The project’s object(s) of inquiry and scholarly significance, including intended audience(s) [for example: making new or established archives of C19 visible and meaningful to communities on-line and in-person.] 3) Questions/issues that participants would most like peer advice about for accomplishing project goals and building a long-term relationship with objects of inquiry.

Thomas Augst is an associate professor of English at NYU and the author of The Clerk’s Tale: Young Men and Moral Life in Nineteenth-Century America (2003) and co-editor of Institutions of Reading: The Social Life of Libraries in the United States (2007). He is principle investigator of NewYorkScapes, a scholarly community experimenting with digital tools for place-based research and learning, and lead organizer of “Charisma of the Book,” an international collaboration exploring global histories and digital futures of the book.

Molly O’Hagan Hardy is Digital Humanities Curator at the American Antiquarian Society, and has research interests in literary property and race in the eighteenth-century transatlantic world. Through the TEI Archive, Publishing and Access Service (TAPAS) project, she has published a digital edition of A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia (1794).


Virginia Jackson, University of California, Irvine
Michael Cohen, University of California, Los Angeles

In the past twenty years, literary critics seem to have discussed the difficulty or impossibility of reading nineteenth-century American poetry more often than critics have actually read nineteenth-century American poetry. There has been a notable surge in Poetess studies, some important work in African-American historical poetics, and interest in particular moments in nineteenth-century verse culture (the Civil War, the 1890s), but the canon of nineteenth-century American poetry remains not only unread but not yet established. Bryant, Halleck, Whittier, Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell all hover above American literary history as busts rather than as texts. Even the recent work on Horton, Harper, Poe, Dickinson, Whitman, and Dunbar can’t borrow the shadow of a history of American poetics. This seminar will pose two very different questions as consequences of that absence at the center of nineteenth-century American literary studies. First, How might we begin to (finally) read the poetry and poetics of the nineteenth century? Second, What and how did readers of verse in nineteenth-century America actually read?

Both questions entail an acknowledgment that twentieth- and twenty-first-century reading practices simply don’t work for nineteenth-century American poetry. The assumption that a poem is the utterance of a dramatic speaker, for example, is not an assumption common to most American poems before the end of C19, when black dialect poetry introduced a particular dramatic situation. Instead, the reading of nineteenth-century American poems depended on an understanding of specific genres and their modes of address. Those modes of address determined certain (or as the case may be, uncertain) publics. Poems were popular and public in the nineteenth century in ways that are difficult to recapture or even understand today, but the popularity and mass scale of poetry’s readership demands that we reimagine what we mean by both “poetry” and “reading.” What was nineteenth-century American poetry? What did its readers do with it? What happens when we think of this canon in terms of the poems people read in the nineteenth century?

We invite papers that reflect on these questions of nineteenth-century poetry’s publics and readers. Topics might include: poetic genres, race, and racialization; prosody, meter, and recitation; dialect poetics; the institutions of poetry; poetry and literacy; publication formats and venues; poetry and nineteenth-century media; reading and periodization; poetry and nation-building; poetry and empire; American poems abroad; global poetry at home.

Virginia Jackson is UCI Endowed Chair of Rhetoric in the departments of English and Comparative Literature at UC Irvine. She is the author of Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading (2005), the editor of On Periodization: Selected Papers from The English Institute, 2010 (2011), and the co-editor (with Yopie Prins) of The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology (2014). Her book “Before Modernism: Nineteenth-Century Poetry in Public” is forthcoming from Princeton.

Michael Cohen is an assistant professor of English at UCLA and the author of The Social Lives of Poems in Nineteenth-Century America (2015). He is currently at work on a study of poetry and the history of reading in the U.S. Cohen’s articles have appeared in several journals, including ALH and ELH.


Laura Wexler, Yale University
Shawn Michelle Smith, Art Institute of Chicago

Ever since the publication of Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida, scholars have been attuned to the particular presence of photographic subjects. The photograph has been deemed a special kind of evidence, one that provides a visual record of what “has-been.” This seminar will consider not only presence but also absence in nineteenth-century American photography, and especially presence and absence in relation to one another. What are the limitations of photographic presence? What fails to register, photographically? Invisibility is not only about technological or perceptual limitations, but also about cultural framing and training. How do our habits of viewing obscure what we might otherwise see in photographs? On the other hand, photographs sometimes surprise us, allowing us to see something unexpected. What might be revealed to us, unwittingly?   What denied presences can come into view? In Raw Histories, Elizabeth Edwards reminds us that the archive “is not only a place of disciplinary regulation and enclosure, although it is of course that in one register.” Rather, she argues, within the archive “there is a dense multidimensional fluidity of the discursive practices of photographs as linking objects between past and present, between visible and invisible and active in cross-cultural negotiation. Meanings come in and out of focus, double back on themselves, adhere silently” (p.4). Our interest in this seminar is to explore what newly becomes visible when (not)seeing the 19C comes to the fore.

Laura Wexler is Professor of American Studies and Professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Yale University, where she is also Principal Investigator of the Photogrammar Project (, Director of The Photographic Memory Workshop and Acting Co-director of the Public Humanities Program. A historian of race, gender and photography, Wexler has published many articles and books, including the prize-winning Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of US Imperialism (2000), and, with co-author Sandra Matthews, Pregnant Pictures (2000). Currently she is working on a visualized history of white supremacy in the United States at the turn of the last century and on the intergenerational transfer of historical memory in family albums in post-conflict societies.

Shawn Michelle Smith is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has published several books on the history and theory of photography and gender and race in visual culture. Her most recent book, At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen (2013), received the 2014 Lawrence W. Levine Award for best book in American cultural history from the Organization of American Historians, and the 2014 Jean Goldman Book Prize from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently working on a book about contemporary photography invested in the past.


Jesse Alemán, University of New Mexico
Maria A. Windell, University of Colorado, Boulder

This seminar maps the way nineteenth-century Latina/o Studies constitutes hemispheric, transamerican, or transnational fields through the lives of writers, texts, readers, and print cultures that circulated freely, haphazardly, fleetingly, or deliberately across the Americas.

Latina/o Studies has been organized around a variety of practices, from recovering Latina/o-authored texts to examining the emergence of a Latina/o print culture to celebrating the rise of the Latina/o novel. Central to each of these methodologies is the trans-nationality of authors, the hemispheric circulation of texts, or the interpellation of real and imaginary transamerican readers. Individually and combined, these issues make Latina/o Studies a site of intersection in which the fugitive lives of books and print cultures, as well as the communities of readers they invite, are just as important to recover, complicate, or trace as the biographies of nineteenth-century Latina/o writers. If one aspect of Latina/o literary history is to recover the biographies of individual authors, another is to trace the sometimes surprising lives of Latino/a texts and the genealogies of print cultures that, as Kirsten Silva-Gruesz and Raúl Coronado teach us, historically constitute Latina/o identities and writing in the first place. What does it mean to consider Latina/o lives, thus broadly construed, in a hemispheric context, and how do such lives reshape our understandings of transamerican spaces and studies?     We invite reflections on how to trace the nineteenth-century Latina/o lives of authors, texts, readers, and print cultures. Topics may include but are not limited to: hemispheric geographies, mobility, archives, racial formations, biography, textual histories, print culture practices, Latina/o writing, the Latina/o novel, Spanish-language readers and communities, and/or other methodological considerations about the varied lives of Latina/o authors, texts, or print practices.

Jesse Alemán is a professor of English at the University of New Mexico, where he teaches nineteenth-century American and Mexican American literatures. He’s the editor of the 1876 narrative, The Woman in Battle, and co-editor (with Shelley Streeby) of Empire and the Literature of Sensation and the forthcoming collection “The Latino Nineteenth Century,” with Rodrigo Lazo. He’s the author of over a dozen articles on nineteenth-century American, US Latino/a, and Mexican American literary histories, hemispheric studies, and recovery work, and is completing a book on US Hispanic writings about the Civil War.

Maria A. Windell is an assistant professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her work, which has appeared in Nineteenth-Century Literature and J19, investigates the intersections of genre, nation, history, and transamerican studies in the long nineteenth century. She is finishing a book manuscript titled “Sentimental Diplomacy: US Literary History and the Transamerican Nineteenth Century,” which explores how literary sentimentalism becomes a tool for negotiating the racialized and gendered violence of the nineteenth-century Americas.


Amy S. Greenberg, Penn State University
Ari Kelman, Penn State University

In recent years the colonial model and mechanism known as “settler colonialism” has become an increasingly popular theory for explaining nineteenth and twentieth century imperial formations around the globe. This seminar, led by two historians, will consider the usefulness of this model

in a North American context. Was there settler colonialism in North America, and if so, where? Leading proponents Edward Cavanagh and Lorenzo Veracini argued for the broad applicability of the model in 2010, stating that “Settler colonialism. . . as much a thing of the past as a thing of the present. There is no such thing as neo-settler colonialism or post-settler colonialism because settler colonialism is a resilient formation that rarely ends. . . . Sometimes settler colonial forms operate within colonial ones, sometimes they subvert them, sometimes they replace them. But even if colonialism and settler colonialism interpenetrate and overlap, they remain separate as they co-define each other.” (

We invite papers that use transnational and comparative methodologies to consider the differences between territorial expansion in North America as well as other contexts. How do imperial models move between disparate contexts?

Amy S. Greenberg is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Penn State University. She is the author of Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire (2005) as well as A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 Invasion of Mexico (2012). Her book Cause for Alarm: The Volunteer Fire Department in the Nineteenth-Century City (2014) focuses on the relationship between gender, culture, and urbanization.

Ari Kelman is McCabe Greer Professor of American History at Penn State University. He is the author of the Bancroft Prize-winning A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (2013) and A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (2003). He is currently working on a book about the relationship between the Civil War and Indian Wars.


Jennifer James, George Washington University
Dana Luciano, Georgetown University

Recent scholarship in the environmental humanities has significantly expanded the range and texture of 19th century ecocriticism, moving the field decisively beyond the traditional emphasis on “nature writing.” In place of this relatively narrow understanding of “nature,” and the limited, predominantly Northern and white, canon that has evolved in tandem with it, eco-critics are increasingly addressing “nature” in tandem with other social and political concerns. Following the work of Stephanie LeMenager, Paul Outka, Priscilla Solis Ybarra, Monique Allewaert, and others, this seminar asks what new subjects, texts and approaches might help us to re-imagine the question of the environment in the 19th century US, with a particular eye toward undergraduate and graduate pedagogy. As our title “Beyond Thoreau” suggests, we are invested in engaging with a broadened range of environmental thinkers, as well as rethinking canonical figures like Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman. Points of inquiry might include topics such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, the human/post-human, animals, science, industrialism, labor, food, enslavement, surveying, public parks, enclosure, health/healing, experimental communities, expansionism, war, rebellion, border conflicts. Transnational, hemispheric, post-colonial, and oceanic perspectives are encouraged.

Jennifer James is an associate professor of English and Director of the Africana Studies Program at The George Washington University. She is the author of A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature, the Civil War-World War II (2007). Her recent work on race and the environment includes “‘Buried in Guano’: Race, Labor and Sustainability,” in American Literary History(2012); and “Ecomelancholia: Slavery, War, and Black Ecological Imaginings” in Environmental Criticism for the 21st Century (2011). She also serves on the board of ResilienceA Journal of the Environmental Humanities.

Dana Luciano is an associate professor of English at Georgetown University. She is the author of Arranging Grief: Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-Century America (2007), which won the Modern Language Association’s First Book Prize in 2008. Her edited volumes include “Queer Inhumanisms,” a special issue of GLQ: The Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, co-edited with Mel Y. Chen (vol. 22 no. 2-3, spring/summer 2015) and Unsettled States: Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies (NYU Press, 2014), co-edited with Ivy G. Wilson. In 2014-15, Luciano served as the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Fellow at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities, working on her current book project “How the Earth Feels: Geological Fantasy in the Nineteenth-Century US.”


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