CFP: Margaret Fuller Society Panels (including Fuller/Alcott) at ALA (1.20.15)

The Margaret Fuller Society invites proposals for two panels for the 2015 American Literature Association Conference (Boston 21-24 May)

I.  Margaret Fuller:  Toward a New Genealogy of Genius

            The Romantic critical discourse of “genius,” as Christine Battersby documents in Gender and Genius, developed through the exclusion of women and served to promote only a single woman at a time by ranking her as exceptional, above other women.   In the judgement of antebellum cultural arbitrators, as Nina Baym’s concluded in Novels, Readers, and Reviewers, only a single woman writer– the French author George Sand– indisputably ranked as a “genius.”  Emerson agreed about Sand, but notoriously invoked the discourse to qualify that Fuller had only “genius in conversation.” Fuller herself lamented feeling that she lacked “force to be . . . a genius.” Yet nineteenth-century women widely contested the discourse of “genius” with definitions of their own and with their own opinions about the kinds and degrees of “genius” to be found among women writers and reform orators.

            How might we recuperate the concept of “genius” to reassess Fuller or to discover a genealogy of genius that brings her together with other women who went before or after her?  in the U.S., in the rest of the Americas, or across the Atlantic

II.  Conversations:  Fuller, Alcott, and Others

 (Sponsored jointly with the Louisa May Alcott Society)

            Margaret Fuller and Louisa May Alcott are often read in separate categories as women writers, one as the exceptional woman of transcendentalism and the other as a writer of sensational tales and children’s fiction.  Yet they were deeply connected through common culture and social networks as well as direct textual influence.  The critical discourse of “genius” offered provocations to their creativity.  Fuller herself conducted Conversations for women, including some who in turn mentored Alcott; both were friends and readers of Emerson.  Wider movements and circles extended around their careers, including abolitionism, women’s reform, the Dial and other periodicals, the New England Women’s Club.  Among transatlantic writers influencing or influenced by them were Goethe, de Stael, Sand, Barrett Browning, Bremer.  We propose papers exploring such conversations in any textual, cultural, or biographical terms. We also welcome proposals exploring ideas – women’s independence, women in the professions, companionate marriage – discernible in the work of both Fuller and Alcott.


Please send one-page abstracts by January 20, 2015 to Charlene Avallone