NeMLA CFP (2019) Teaching American Literature as Post-Colonial Literature (Proposals Due 9/30)

Efforts have been underway for nearly a generation to change the way that scholars, students, and the general public view “American Literature.” To a large extent, these efforts have been additive in nature. Works of literature that had previously been left out or “lost” from the literary record were added. New theoretical frameworks that helped legitimize these recovered works of fiction were also introduced. Although this process of recovery helped reframe classic works of American fiction and forced the literary history of US fiction to evolve, it did not fundamentally change the vision of American Literature as an exceptional body of work tied to an exceptional nation. What would it mean to remove the structural framework of US exceptionalism from the syllabus of American Literature courses? How might post-colonial theory help scholars teaching these courses (particularly US surveys) to accomplish this goal? How might a change in pedagogy drive a change in scholarship on the authors typically examined in these courses? What backlash might scholars attempting to make these changes face in a renewed nationalist climate and how could they potentially use that backlash to change public discourse on US fiction? These are a few of the possible questions that presentations in this session might consider. Research examining authors of the early Republic within a post-colonial framework are particularly welcome. Please note that round tables are informal presentations of between 5 and 10 minutes as these sessions are meant to generate discussion.


This round table will examine the role of US exceptionalism in creating course syllabi for American Literature surveys taught today. It will also consider how a post-colonial theoretical framework might change the way that scholars teach American Literature and how those pedagogical changes might drive changes in scholarship on the authors taught in these courses.

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