Feminist Critical Regionalism and the Climate of Western Literary Studies
Seminar Leaders: Jennifer S. Tuttle and Jean Pfaelzer
Seminars will convene for two hours at the conference. Confirmed participants will pre-circulate 5-page papers to fellow seminar members in advance of the seminar. The due date for the 5-page papers will be Thursday, March 8, 2018, two weeks before the conference commences.
To apply for a seminar, submit a title and an abstract (not to exceed 250 words) of the 5-page paper you propose to pre-circulate to the seminar. Members of the Program Committee and the relevant seminar leaders will select participants from these proposals. Please note: you do not need to submit the 5-page paper itself when applying to the conference.
The submission deadline for seminar applications is September 15, 2017. To apply, please visit c19conference2018.exordo.com/.
This seminar takes up Krista Comer’s call to advance feminist critical regionalism in studies of the US West, a region invoked here as a material and discursive construct. Recent scholarship by Susan Kollin, Neil Campbell, Chadwick Allen, José Limón, and others on the shifting signifier of the West has powerfully reconceptualized the region as fluidly postwestern, boundlessly rhizomatic, globally trans-indigenous, and deeply local. These reframings of the field are vital, yet Comer observes that “we grapple still as critics” with neglected feminist and decolonial concerns regarding the politics of space, mobility, and flow—“with the fact of immobilities, uneven development, frictions. Who moves when, [and] under what conditions?” (p. 9). This seminar invites papers that use the conference theme of “climate” in innovative ways to navigate paradoxes of mobility and space in intersectional feminist studies of the US West.
How, for example, might reconceiving the West as a wind-blown zone of circulation, stasis, transfer, and exchange within the larger Pacific world recover and resituate women’s agency, further illuminate queer and gender-innovative creative expression in and about the region, and provide interpretive access to the lives and voices of women heretofore overlooked in 19th-century western literary studies, especially indigenous, African American, Chinese American, Chicana, Latina, LGBTQ, and working-class women? Polar Easterlies and equatorial Trade Winds blow from east to west across North America and the Pacific; in the latitudes between them, Westerlies follow a reverse course, roaring from west to east. On the crests of these winds and in their zones of convergence, concurrent and competing agendas have been pursued. As metaphors these winds may inspire new ways of approaching women’s lives and texts in the West of the long 19th century–as a gateway to and a space within the imperial Pacific; a nexus of human trafficking and trade; a site of captivity, exclusion, and transgression; an oceanic zone of Native survivance; or an unmoving, persistent Aztlán. Participants may work within the metaphor of wind or consider other approaches to illuminating western women’s cultural production, but we especially encourage those who engage with the theme of climate.
(Krista Comer, “Thinking Otherwise across Global Wests: Issues of Mobility and Feminist Critical Regionalism,” Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, vol. 10, 2016. http://arcade.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/article_pdfs/Occasion_v10_comer_final.pdf).
Jennifer S. Tuttle is Dorothy M. Healy Professor of Literature and Health at the University of New England, where she directs the Maine Women Writers Collection and co-founded the Women’s and Gender Studies program; in 2017 she completed a term as editor of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers. She is editor of the first recovered edition of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1911 western The Crux (2002) and co-editor of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: New Texts, New Contexts (2011, with Carol Farley Kessler) and The Selected Letters of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (2009, with Denise D. Knight). Her published essays on Gilman, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, and Owen Wister explore intersections among gender, medical discourse, and western literary studies. She is currently working on a book about American nervousness in women’s writing of California and the imperial Pacific.
Jean Pfaelzer is Professor of English, Asian Studies, and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Delaware. She is the author of California Bound: The History of Slavery in the American West (2018); Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans (2007); Parlor Radical: Rebecca Harding Davis & the Origins of American Social Realism (1996); and The Utopian Novel in America (1984) and editor of The Rebecca Harding Davis Reader (1995). Among her forthcoming books is Muted Mutinies: Slave Revolts on Chinese Coolie Ships. Jean recently helped to curate I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story for the Smithsonian Museum of American History. She appears in two PBS specials airing this year: “1882” and a PBS/CCBS special on Chinese immigration. In 2015 she was featured on CSPAN3’s “African American Slavery and the Underground Railroad in California.”