The conference hopes to broaden the scope of American literature, opening it to more complex geographies, and to a variety of genres and media. It is impossible to read the work of Junot Diaz and Edwidge Danticat, Robert Hass and Jorie Graham, Dave Eggers and Jhumpa Lahiri without seeing that, for all these authors, the reference frame is no longer simply the United States, but a larger, looser, more contextually varied set of coordinates, populated by laboring bodies, migrating faiths, generational sagas, memories of war, as well as the accents of unforgotten tongues, the tastes and smells of beloved foods and spices.
The twenty-first century is a good century to think about American literature in the world. But other centuries are equally fertile ground, as the writings of Anne Bradstreet, Margaret Fuller, Herman Melville, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Richard Wright, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, and Elizabeth Bishop make abundantly clear. To study these and countless other authors is to see that the United States and the world are neither separate nor antithetical, but part of the same analytic fabric. Our conference explores these extended networks through many channels: from the cultural archives circulating across the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Caribbean, to the dynamic interactions between indigenous populations and those from other continents; from the institutions of print, to the tangled ecologies of literature, art, theater, music, and film, to the digital globalism of the present moment.
The conference is generously supported by the Beinecke Library, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the English Department, the American Studies Program, the African-American Studies Department, the Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, the Comparative Literature Department, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Italian Department, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, the Film Studies Program, and the Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. We are offering a $300 travel stipend to those coming from outside the tri-state area. Conference attendees are also invited to participate in a research workshop with Melissa Barton, Curator at the Beinecke Library; a scholarly publication workshop with Gordon Hutner, editor of American Literary History; and a “Scholars as Writers” workshop with Lan Samantha Chang, Director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, in conversation with Harry Stecopoulos, editor of the Iowa Review, and Richard Deming, Director of Creative Writing at Yale University.
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Thank you for responding so enthusiastically — we received 88 proposals this year, and will be posting the conference program in early April.