CFP: “Materialities of American Texts and Visual Cultures”

Conference Dates: April 9 & 10, 2015
Deadline for Proposals: January 23, 2015

Hosted by: Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology and Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York, NY. Co-Sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School, the Bibliographical Society of America, and the American Print History Association.

Organized by: John Garcia (jgar@berkeley.edu) and Marie Stephanie Delamaire (mmd2108@caa.columbia.edu)

On April 9-10, 2015, curators, conservators, and scholars from various disciplines will convene at Columbia University to discuss new approaches to American print and visual cultures generated by the recent humanistic interest in materiality.

From current historical work on material and visual cultures, to anthropological research on the social life of things and new approaches to reading and interpretation in historical scholarship, the study of the physical evidence of culture has become a pressing issue. This interdisciplinary symposium will bring together curators, conservators, and scholars of art history, literary studies, book history, and bibliography to discuss common questions and disciplinary challenges in the study of texts and visual cultures produced in the United States during the long nineteenth century. This period witnessed concomitant transformations in book and image production methods as well as in publishing practices and distribution networks that affected every aspect of American society and culture, including the emergence of early African American literary traditions and printed American Indian texts and images. Additionally, the emergence of a mass production of images was largely interwoven with new forms of literary productions such as illustrated novels, and serial publications. Both print and visual cultures were largely built upon practices of reprinting, recycling, and inter-media translation, where the relationships between user and maker, as well as between texts and images were constantly re-negotiated. But how we move from reckoning with these transformations towards making more compelling humanistic interpretations remains an open question. For both literary studies and art history, concerns with materiality interweave familiar interpretive issues of aesthetic, formal, and narrative complexity with the questions of format, presentation, and modes of production and transmission that have long concerned bibliographers and historians of material texts.

To stimulate discussions, and foster productive scholarship crossing between literary, material, and art historical studies, we seek proposals for 20-minute presentations exploring the historical relationships between the materiality of nineteenth-century American printed texts and images.

Materials to be considered might include but are not limited to: illustrated books, periodicals and newspapers, gift books, publishers’ archives, lottery tickets and rewards of merit, scrapbooks, early artist’s books, broadsides and other ephemera, cartography, political cartoons, manuscript cultures, drawing and handwriting in the era of mass print.

Topics and approaches from presenters might include but are not limited to: Redefining the relationships between technology and creative practices, inter-medial translation, cultures of reprinting, embodiment and studies of readers and reading, the temporal and spatial dimensions of images and texts, historicism(s) past and present, economies of scale, distributive processes in the movements of images and texts, the production and subversion of identity and social norms, the material texts and visual cultures of abolition, social movements, and marginalized communities.

Committed speakers include: Jennifer Greenhill (Urbana-Champaign), Elizabeth Hutchinson (Barnard/Columbia), Michael Leja (Penn), Christopher Lukasik (Purdue), Todd Pattison (Rare Book School), Jennifer Roberts (Harvard), Phillip Round (Iowa).

In order to be considered, please Submit proposals for participation by Friday, January 23, 2015 to: 
Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire (mmd2108@caa.columbia.edu) and John Garcia (jgar@berkeley.edu).
Proposals should include:

 1. Preliminary abstract (no more than 500 words).
 2. Letter explaining speaker’s interest and expertise in the topic. 3. A brief 2-page CV with email address. Notifications will be sent by Monday February 23, 2015.

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