CFP: NEMLA Panel The Choice of Books: The Woman Reader, Control, and Cultural Authority

The Choice of Books: The Woman Reader, Control, and Cultural Authority

In Yale Professor Noah Porter’s 1870 guide to finding “successful methods of Reading,” he argues that young women “suffering for the want of a little direction […] read themselves down into an utter waste and frivolity of thought, feeling and purpose. The trashy literature in which they delight, becomes the cheap and vapid representative of their empty minds, their heartless affections, and their frivolous characters.” To save their souls from “utter barrenness and waste,” he defines and categorizes books and courses of reading that will be useful and formative.

His guide is one of many published in the late nineteenth century with intent to define and constrict proper and useful reading, particularly for girls. Similarly, many fictional accounts of girlhood depict similar scenes, as The Wide, Wide World’s Ellen Montgomery’s reading is heavily controlled and restricted by her benefactor, John. This panel proposes exploring the many ways that cultural authorities throughout the nineteenth century aimed to control access to reading material. We invite papers that consider both nonfiction and fictional accounts of the modes of oversight, restriction, or regulation that limited reading material or other sources of knowledge for women of this era.

Please submit abstracts of approximately 300-500 words to via the NeMLA database at: Abstracts are due by October 15, 2015.

Please contact Kimberly Armstrong at with any questions.

In Spring 2016, the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) will meet in Hartford, Connecticut, for its 47th Annual Convention. Every year, this event affords NeMLA’s principal opportunity to carry on a tradition of lively research and pedagogical exchange in language and literature.

Please join us for this convention, which will feature approximately 400 sessions, dynamic speakers, and cultural events. 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.

Full information regarding the 2016 Call for Papers may be found on NeMLA’s website: