CFP: “The Genre of the Twenty-First Century”? Databases and the Future of Literary Studies

Thursday, November 1, 2012 (All day)

Organized by Paul Hjartarson (Alberta), Hannah McGregor (Guelph), Harvey Quamen (Alberta), and EMiC UA

We welcome submissions for a special ACCUTE member-organized panel on the database and literary studies. This panel will take place as part of Congress 2013, held June 1-8 at the University of Victoria, immediately prior to the DHSI.

In 2007 a debate emerged on the pages of the PMLAsurrounding the incorporation of the database—as tool or metaphor—into literary studies. Ed Folsom, celebrating his and Kenneth Price’s Walt Whitman Archive, argued that their project exemplifies the “database [as] a new genre, the genre of the twenty-first century,” while Jerome McGann rebutted that “The Walt Whitman Archiveis not—in any sense that a person meaning to be precise would use—a database at all.”

Given that many digital projects have eschewed databases in their effort to, as Susan Brown wrote of the Orlando Project, “retain the fluidity, flexibility, and nuance of continuous prose,” the PMLAdebate demands a reconsideration of the nature of databases and their use in literary studies. This panel intervenes in this technological debate. Do current database projects undermine the familiar rubrics of literary studies or productively challenge the disciplinary status quo? How have databases reshaped our understanding of literary history, archives, and digital remediation? Are databases truly inhospitable to narrative? Does a celebration of the database participate in a fantasy of technological neutrality or enforce a new politics? We welcome papers that engage with these questions, or with other dimensions of the database in literary studies.

Please submit 700 words proposals, along with a 100 word abstract and 50 word biography, to Hannah McGregor ( by November 1.


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