American Literature in the World Conference 2015

March 26, 2015

By Nancy Kuhl

American Literature in the World Graduate Conference.  Yale University.   April 10, 2015

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The conference hopes to broaden the scope of American literature, opening it to more complex geographies, and to a variety of genres and media.  The impetus comes partly from a survey of what is currently in the field: 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 taste and smell 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 Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program, the Comparative Literature Department, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Italian Department, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, and the Film Studies Program at Yale University. We offer a $300 travel stipend to those coming from outside the tri-state area. Conference attendees are also invited to four related events: a reading with Ruth Ozeki; a research workshop with Melissa Barton, Curator at the Beinecke Library; a publication workshop with Gordon Hutner, editor of American Literary History; and a “Scholars as Writers” workshop with Jill Lepore, Kemper Professor of History, Harvard University, and staff writer for the New Yorker.

American Literature in the World Conference Schedule 2015

9:30-10:45.  MACRO AND MICRO

Adeline Tran (UC Berkeley),  ”Transatlantic Aestheticism: Raymond Chandler’s Nostalgia for Fin de Siècle Europe”

Stephen Marsh  (Oxford),  ”Pynchon, Anarchy, and the Shadow of War in the American Century”

Dan Sinykin (Cornell),  ”On the Poetics of Microfinance: Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Sexy’ and  ’Gramin’ Bank”

Respondent:  Merve Emre


Hudson Vincent (Harvard),  ”Reading John Davenport: Utopia and Scripture in Colonial America”

Philip Kadish  (CUNY),  ”Stowe, the Mandingo, and Islam:  The Liberian-American Confrontation with Mandingo Power, Transatlantic Scientific Mandingo-Saxonism, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Transformed Ideal of African American Heroism from Uncle Tom’s Cabin toDred”

Derek Lee (Pennsylvania State U),  ”Hacking High Modernism: Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and Rise of the Post-Quantum Novel”

Respondent:  Phoenix Alexander


Gordon Hutner, editor, American Literary History


Suzanne Enzerink (Brown),  “ ‘Praisesong’ for the Americans: Presenting African American Literature at FESTAC ’77”

Jesse McCarthy (Princeton), “Strangers in the Village: James Baldwin and Vincent O. Carter”

Ellen Song (Duke), “The Problem of Imagining a New World Order: On Such a Full Sea”

Respondent:  Courtney Sato


Pippa Eldridge (U of London, Birbeck),  ”The Deterritorialisation of Suburban Space in the immigrant narratives of Philip Roth, Junot Diaz and Karen Tei Yamashita”

Manuel Herrero-Puertas (U of Wisconsin-Madison),  ”Disability Travels”

Maile Speakman (Tulane),  ”Gender in the City: Reading Judith Butler in Havana”

Respondent:  Jason Bell


Jill Lepore, Kemper Professor of History at Harvard and staff writer for the New Yorker

5:30-6:30   RECEPTION

Image: Photograph of Langston Hughes with Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin