Call for Papers!
Nineteenth Century Workshop 2018: War / After War: Memory, Fear, Indifference
Rutgers University - New Brunswick, NJ
October 4-5, 2018
War as memory. The fear of war. War as experience. How does culture mark its relationship to organized violent conflict?
In 2018, Rutgers’ Nineteenth Century Workshop will address the long-lasting effects of war on nineteenth-century literature and culture. It is a topic we take to be both urgent and of particular scholarly interest to students of the era.
This year marks the anniversary of the end of the war to end all wars, an epochal struggle with relatively little presence in current popular memory. But this is just one instance where the preoccupation with a military conflict, like its neglect, is in itself a complex cultural matter. The recent and ongoing controversy over the fate of memorials dedicated to the losing side in the American Civil war, the paucity of discussion of the continuing military engagements involved in what has been called the war on terror, and the recent re-awakening of structures of thought and behavior reminiscent of the Cold War—all of these phenomena remind us that what we call victory, loss, and the commemoration of state violence are seldom settled matters.
The military struggles that define the nineteenth century as a period—the revolutionary violence in America, France, and the Caribbean in the late 18th century and the first global conflagration in the early 20th— are at once political events establishing new social arrangements, and cultural ones provoking reflection, memory, and debate.
And yet, the place of military conflict in the cultural imagination varies strikingly depending on specific national traditions. European wars look different from the vantage point of the far reaches of Empire, as does the struggle over New World territory from the perspective of the enslaved or the newly emancipated. The nationalisms that emerged all over the world in the period bore a complex relationship to both colonial expansion and domestic revolt. As none of England’s many nineteenth-century wars took place on its soil, the involvement of the general population was intermittent and highly mediated. By contrast, a civil war that caused the death of more Americans than any foreign struggle explicitly structures the study of nineteenth-century American literature and culture, installing a sharp break in the middle of the century and recasting narratives of national and regional belonging on either side of this divide.
The Americanist Seminar fosters interdisciplinary research in American literature and culture at Rutgers by providing a forum for the the exchange of work-in-progress, sponsoring visits from distinguished scholars, serving as a liaison to area Americanist organizations, and encouraging experimental work in literature, criticism, and allied arts.
Meredith L. McGill is an Associate Professor of English. She is the author of American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1837-1853 (2003), a study of nineteenth-century American resistance to tight control over intellectual property. She has edited two collections of essays: The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange (2008), in which a variety of scholars model ways of understanding nineteenth-century poetry within a transatlantic frame and Taking Liberties with the Author (2013), which explores the persistence of the author as a shaping force in literary criticism. Her overview of the last thirty-five years of scholarship on book history and intellectual property can be found in Book History, Volume 16 (2013). She is currently completing a study of poetry and mass-culture in the antebellum U.S. Her research and teaching interests include nineteenth-century American literature, the history of the book in American culture, American poetry and poetics, law and literature, literary theory, and media history.