NASSR 2015: Graduate-Sponsored Panels

The NASSR Graduate Student Caucus is delighted to announce that there will be many open-call special sessions sponsored by graduate students at NASSR 2015 (and this is not an exhaustive list: for more open calls for panels, please see the conference homepage).

In addition to sessions listed below, Teresa Pershing and Laura Kremmel will be convening a closed session on professionalization, Minding the Gap: Between the Ph.D and the Tenure Track, sponsored by the NGSC. This panel will be a must-attend for graduate students!

Finally, if no special session is calling your name, individual paper proposals (with CV attached) are due on January 17th, 2015. For instructions, please see the Call for Papers on the NASSR website.

Now, to the panels!

Roundtable: Public Romanticism: Scholarship and Advocacy
Organized by the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus

Faculty scholars and graduate students are invited to submit a short (five-minute) presentation for a high-octane roundtable discussion on how Romantic scholarship at all levels might interface with advocacy in the public sphere, in keeping with the NASSR 2015 conference theme of “Romanticism and Rights.” This opportunity is sponsored and will be convened by the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus.

Please submit a title and one-page abstract of your proposed five-minute talk to the NGSC Co-Conveners, Arden Hegele and Jacob Leveton, by January 17th, 2015.

Laura Kremmel: “The Right to Be Monstrous: Disability and Illness in the Gothic
Special Session Sponsored by the International Gothic Association

By definition, the Gothic presents a space, circumstance, or individual that is unwell, that causes a sense of dis-ease. It involves infection, poison, corruption, deformity, mutation, and experimentation, all of which challenge notions of the natural, healthy body. In his much-cited introduction to The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, Chris Baldick classifies the Gothic as a “sickening descent into disintegration” (xix). Yet, its plots never start out this way, characters often seeking to maintain or reinforce the utmost standards in health. After all, one of the tradition’s most iconic figures, Frankenstein’s creature, arises out misguided attempts to manipulate a body’s condition. When the creature opens its insalubrious yellow eyes, its creator expels it at once, denying it the right to exist in a state of un-wellness. The text itself, however, allows it to live on, goading its disruption of human wellbeing.

This panel invites papers that look at the ways in which the Gothic allows for possibilities beyond the conventional idea of healthy bodies. Deviations from the typically healthy body are often configured as monstrous, frightening, and abject, making the body foreign and confusing. Yet, the Gothic also gives such bodies a space of their own to tell their stories, a place where authors suffering from illness or disability could also find solace. Papers on this panel will look at the Gothic’s endorsement of the right to be monstrous—to be unwell—a right that cannot be denied without horrific consequences.

Alyssa Bellows and Alison Cotti-Lowell: “Community Rights

Many of the themes currently listed focus on rights from the perspective of the legalized individual. We propose a session that thinks about rights from the perspective of the community. This allows for two broad considerations: First, how are rights distributed among groups or communities? We aim to shift conceptually how we think about rights in relation to the dynamic of power: rights as a distributed power of a group, rather than belonging to the individual. Second, how are rights conferred unofficially, and how do communities regulate themselves from the inside; that is, outside written or official codes? The opportunity here is to think through alternative systems of rights that are neither official, nor state-sanctioned, nor law-given but still organize and mediate social relations.

The significance of self-governing community is particularly relevant to the late 18th to early 19th centuries as a continuation of 18th-century discussions of sympathy; as a reaction to the French Revolution (being one official rule of law overthrown by another that (however popular its origins) became just as official); as a discussion following up on the tension between the private patronage of the landed gentry and the developing state and governing systems; as a consideration of the developing structures of private punishment that parallel those developing publically (as explored by Foucault). How does our understanding of Romanticism shift when we think about it from the perspective of unofficial groups? How does this perspective shift our understanding of rights?

Finally, as we think about rights in formulations of unofficial multiplicity, we can pay special attention to alternative structures of organization. What alternative methods or means of mediating rights arose? What surprising alliances or partnerships formed to preserve, fight for, or represent rights? When and how did such alliances give rise to assemblages or networks that sought a greater good? And what inevitable tensions resulted? We welcome papers that explore any questions related to the ways that rights are conferred by communities and engaged by groups, with particular emphasis on how literature mediates such networks.


Alexander Grammatikos: “Lord Byron and Rights
Special Session Sponsored by The Byron Society of America

Lord Byron was a passionate and life-long defender of people’s rights. In the House of Lords he argued for the right of Catholics to be represented in parliament; in his personal correspondence he supported writers’ claims to copyright over their own works; and in a decision that led to his death, he travelled to Greece to help the Greeks realize their right to become an independent nation. His preoccupation with rights extended to his poetic works, too. For example, in Sardanapalus, the misguided but well-meaning titular leader laments “To me war is no glory—conquest no / Renown. To be forced thus to uphold my right / Sits heavier on my heart than all the wrongs / These men would bow me down with” ( Here, in but just one example from Byron’s oeuvre, the poet demonstrates his keen understanding of the often relative nature of “rights” (for a king to retain his, he required war and conquest) and the personal price one had to pay to uphold them.

Complementing NASSR’s broader theme of “Romanticism and Rights,” we invite proposals that consider Byron’s engagement with “rights.” Submissions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Byron and the right to freedom of religion
  • Byron and the right to national independence
  • Byron and animal rights
  • Byron and authorial rights
  • Byron and the right to sexual and gender expression
  • Byron and the right to freedom of speech
  • Byron and the rights of the disenfranchised and poor
  • Byron and Eastern rights
  • Byron and female rights


Michael Nicholson: “Romantic Remains”

To be left behind after the removal, use, or destruction of some part, number, or quantity.
To continue in the same place or with the same person; to abide, to stay.
The survivors of a war, battle, or other destructive event.
A relic of some obsolete custom or practice; a surviving trait or characteristic.
A part or the parts of a person’s body after death; a corpse.
The literary works or fragments (esp. the unpublished ones) left by an author after death. [OED]

Romantic culture’s most familiar rhetorics of revolution are progressive, teleological, messianic, and apocalyptic. Building upon the etymology of the term “remain(s)” as a term that denotes survival and persistence as much as death and decay, “Romantic Remains” will consider the whole range of “remain(s)” in relation to “rights” (political, cultural, literary, scientific, environmental, corporeal, and otherwise). This panel will therefore theorize the era’s less critically prominent forms of protest such as stasis, resistance, delay, disappearance, survival, and/or endurance. In a moment whose most prominent poetic works, embodied individual lives, and grand political narratives focus on vigor, life, growth, evolution, and development—Wordsworth’s “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” Barbauld’s “Little Invisible Being Who is Expected Soon to Become Visible,” and Shelley’s “Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory”—who or what gets left behind? What radical possibilities lie on the other side of Romanticism’s forward-thinking forms of enthusiasm, passion, utopianism, and optimism?

As the necessary consequence of works such as Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey and Volney’s Ruins, Romantic critics have always taken an interest in Europe’s physical remains. Yet in our present moment of environmental catastrophe and ruin, a diverse array of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholars have drawn new attention to the possibilities and anxieties of contingent, biodegradable, unhurried, and uncertain forms of existence and aesthetics: Kevis Goodman and Jonathan Sachs (slow time), Jonathan Bate and James C. McKusick (Romantic ecology and green writing), Paul Fry (ontological radicalism), Anahid Nersessian (nescience), Anne-Lise François (recessive agency), Timothy Morton (dark ecology), and Jacques Khalip (anonymity and dispossession). In its focus on natural rhythms, formal omissions, and vanishing acts rather than developmental narratives or confident subjects, this panel will turn toward a critique of the idea that Romanticism always proceeds though rapid movement and productive presence. With this end in mind, we will study the period’s conservationist energies in the realms of ontology, politics, and aesthetics—how the positions of remaining behind, moving slowly, and entirely disappearing often allowed Romantic writers to contest the excesses of an increasingly accelerating age focused on imperial expansion, economic development, and sociocultural improvement.

Papers may consider “Romantic Remains” in relation to a wide range of formal, historical, theoretical, and critical concerns, that might include:

  • necromanticism / material remains: corpses, ruins, relics, residues, wastes, wrecks, dust, rubble, and debris
  • formal remains: elegies, epitaphs, scraps, elisions, gaps, fragments, caesurae, ellipses, and repetitions
  • biological / natural processes: decomposition, defilement, deterioration, erosion, putrefaction, and decay
  • the poetics of nostalgia / memory and ephemerality / forgetting
  • outmoded, suspended, superseded, and left over genres, modes, and personae
  • spatial remains: localism, dispossession, immovability, and immobility
  • temporal remains: anachronism, haunting, and gradualism
  • textual / authorial negotiations of invisibility, anonymity, disappearance, obscurity, or
  • reanimation
  • memorialization and categories of identity such as gender, race, class, sexuality, and disability
  • biodegradable / sustainable aesthetics
  • scientific and antiquarian analyses of extinction, evolution, and survival
  • the ruins of Romantic criticism and theory / the remains of Romantic literary history / the afterlives of Romantic writing


Rachel Seiler-Smith: “Experimental Subjects”; OPEN
Description: This panel seeks papers on the rights (and ethical rightness) of subjects and conductors of Romantic experiments. The animal, the poor, the slave, the imprisoned, the child, the corpse: all exemplary specimens of the bodies most vulnerable to the spirit of experimentation. Despite many Romantic protests against reason’s nightmares, experiments with living beings persisted throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. New legislation, such as the Anatomy Act, began to challenge the use of certain experimental subjects and raised questions about who holds the right to consent (or not) to scientific, medical, or even social scrutiny. Meanwhile, imaginative work such as Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads and Shelley’s Frankenstein framed themselves as experiments in creation, questioning what it meant to be responsible in caring for such creatures. In some cases of Romantic experiment, the creatures and subjects question back. What other strategies articulate the rights of individuals to resist or participate in experiments advertising themselves as a “benefit to mankind”? In what cases was consent given, and how was such consent construed? How did such forays into literal and figurative experiment contribute to new understandings of the rights to subjectivity? What sorts of knowledges and new concepts of rights are produced from the denials and/or developments of a “test-subject’s” informed consent?