Call for Papers
MLA 2019 - Chicago
Two Panels: Reading the Confidence-Man Today and Melville's Quarrel with Modernity
Panel 1: Reading The Confidence-Man Today
What types of interpretations come up when someone reads the The Confidence-Man in light of recent events? Presenters should offer short, reflective pieces (8 minutes) that provoke discussion. Although a lack of faith (or confidence) in political institutions is a major part of news reports today, presenters may focus on any of the topics brought up in Melville’s book, including stocks and finance, religious organizations, charity, racial identity, belief, and other considerations. Other approaches could include reflections on reading historically or the dynamics of re-reading today.
Panel 2: Melville’s Quarrel with Modernity
In anticipation of an energized year in Melville studies (when on the 200th anniversary of his birth we consider Melville’s significance in the present moment) contributors to this panel will reflect on a vital but largely unexplored feature of Melville’s thinking: his quarrel with modernity.
Melville is not recognized for the clarity of his philosophical arguments. At best, his philosophizing is dismissed as ingenious but muddled. But perhaps Melville’s philosophical arguments have been hard to grasp because they have been miscategorized; they have been taken to embody the ethos of the distinctively modern world (that is, after the defining work of Descartes and Locke) when in fact what they offer is nothing less than a wide-ranging rejection of modernity’s dominant assumptions.
On this panel, accordingly, we will use Melville’s writing to turn a harsh light on some of the beliefs that characterize modern Western thought.
Melville’s writing has meant many things to many people, but as yet it has not been seen as a way to unite or bring into conversation the growing number of theorists resisting the modernity narrative—theorists making an effort to knock down the edifice of dualism, think carefully about where the nature-culture binary has come from (and what we might imagine in its place), cast doubt on the view that the body is inessential to mind, and in other ways question the account of the world offered by the moderns.