Deadline for submissions: September 30, 2017
Full name/name of organization: Northeast Modern Language Association
Contact email:

In Moby-Dick, Ahab, the monomaniacal captain of the Pequod, famously iterates the following lines: “Hark ye yet again,—the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!” In this instance, Ahab might be seen as possessed by what John Dewey called philosophy’s endless “quest for certainty.” Thus, Ahab’s monomaniacal discourse can be said to turn on the appearance/reality distinction—a dichotomy germane to Western metaphysics since Plato. Philosophy, and questions frameable in philosophical terms, is all over Moby-Dick, just as philosophical questions and allusions to philosophy permeate many of the literatures belonging to the creative period known as the American Renaissance.

This panel aims to examine literature from the American Renaissance (and 19th century America, broadly conceived) in terms of its intersections with philosophy. As such, papers that take a distinctly philosophical approach (by pairing philosophy and philosophers with American literature) will be given special priority. Assuming the inherent value of interdisciplinary scholarship, this panel seeks to examine 19th century American Literature by placing it in generative dialogue with the philosophical methods and/or the intellectual histories of Western and Eastern philosophy. One question the panel poses is: What happens when we pair philosophers and philosophies with literatures traditionally dissociated or excluded from philosophic inquiry, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin? This panel will be particularly useful in highlighting philosophy as a critical approach to all forms and genres of 19th century American Literature.

Possible paper topics might include (but are not limited to): Cartesianism and anti-Cartesianism; dualism, monism, and/or pluralism; epistemology after, or in pursuit of, modernity; philosophy of science; pragmatism and proto-pragmatism; phenomenology and philosophies of the body; discourses of sentiment and sympathy; stoicism; platonism and/or neo-platonism; transcendentalism’s platonic (or counter platonic) leanings; object oriented ontology; Stanley Cavell and skepticism; feminism; existentialism; Wittgenstein and ordinary language philosophy.

Please submit your 250-word proposal through the NeMLA submission system. A direct link can be found here:

Proposals are due by Sept 30, 2017. Participants will be notified by October 15.

The Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) conference will be held in Pittsburgh, PA, April 12-15, 2018.