NeMLA Conf: The Thingly Realm in Modern Literature (Mar 2012, New York)

Dates: 15-18 March 2012
Location: New York, United States
Deadline for submissions: 30 Sep 2011

This panel will examine the life of “things” in twentieth-century literature, particularly their power to produce ecstasy or existential nausea. For the modern literary persona, “stuff” has been liberating yet unmasterable, available to representation yet burdensomely concrete: consider Virginia Woolf’s Septimus, for whom “real things are too exciting,” Sartre’s Roquentin, who wants natural objects to “exist less strongly,” or Nabokov as a young lepidopterist. The textual object inevitably raises questions about subjectivity (how do we use things to negotiate and perform identities?), about empathy and skepticism (how do we relate to that which is radically “other”?), and about the ethics of representation (must the text overwhelm or reduce the material world’s essential difference?). As theorizations of the “posthuman” become common, reevaluating the intellectual history of the object may help us understand how “the human” signifies and what is at stake in its doing so. This panel invites papers on the thing in its various literary forms – including the collection or fetish item, the prop or puppet, the remain or refuse, and the symbol in its material aspects. Discussions of any writer or genre are welcome. Send 250-500 word abstracts to Katie Van Wert at

Deadline: September 30, 2011
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
Email address
Postal address
Telephone number
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)

About the Conference: The 43rd annual convention will be held March 15-18th in Rochester, New York at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, located minutes away from convenient air, bus, and train transportation options for attendees. St. John Fisher College will
serve as the host college, and the diverse array of area institution sare coordinating with conference organizers to sponsor various
activities, such as celebrated keynote speakers, local events, and fiction readings.

Building upon the excellence of past NeMLA conferences, the association continues to grow as a vibrant community of scholars, thanks to the wide array of intellectual and cultural opportunities at every venue. Compact yet diverse, Rochester also boasts important historical connections; it is the site of the home, publication operations, and orations of Frederick Douglass, where he edited the North Star, as well as his eponymous periodical, and delivered the speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”. Visitors can explore the houses of abolitionist, suffragette, and reformer Susan B. Anthony and the inventor of devices popularizing photography, George Eastman, as well as shopping and eateries; attendees will also be within reach of the beautiful Finger Lakes region, known for its local wineries.

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.

About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is

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