The Howellsian Fall 2018

The Fall 2018 Howellsian is available here:


CFP: William Dean Howells Society – ALA 2019

William Dean Howells Society – ALA 2019

deadline for submissions:
January 15, 2019
full name / name of organization:
William Dean Howells Society
contact email:

The William Dean Howells Society will host two panels at the upcoming American Literature Association Conference in Boston, May 23-26, 2019.

1. William Dean Howells and the Affective Turn

In her recent work, Emotional Reinventions: Realist Era Representations Beyond Sympathy, Melanie V. Dawson argues that Howells and other realists introduced a new approach to the analysis and portrayal of affect. This new method, she contends, departed from sentimentalist conventions and anticipated the modernist emphasis on alterity and insular subjectivity.  For this panel, we seek presentations on matters of feeling, emotion, or embodiment in the work of William Dean Howells, as well as those that examine his writing from the perspective of affect theory. How did Howells’s treatment of affects diverge from earlier American literature? How have the critical reorientations of the affective turn shed new light on Howells and American literary realism?

2. New Approaches to The Rise of Silas Lapham

In honor of the recent publication of Paul R. Petrie’s new Norton Critical Edition of The Rise of Silas Lapham, we seek presentations that respond to the topics addressed in its selections, including (but not limited to) gender and genre, the politics of realism, and representations of class antagonism in the novel. We are also interested in presentations on teaching the novel, as well as new critical approaches to The Rise of Silas Lapham.

Please send abstracts to Andrew Ball ( by January 15.

Howells in the Franklin Square Library Series

From Paul Petrie:

Dear Dr. Petrie: I am contacting you in your role as editor of the Howellsian.

Two colleagues and I are researching the book covers of a late 19th-century artist, and have reason to believe that a series of William Dean Howells novels, published ca. 1890-1895, in paperback in the Franklin Square Library Series, by Harper & Bros., were done by the same artist. However, these paperback editions are rare and we have only located images of a few of them.

Perhaps you would be so kind as to inquire of the members of the William Dean Howells Society if any of them might own a copy in this series. If so, and if the person would be willing to send a scan of the cover, I would be very grateful to be contacted directly.

Thank you very much for your assistance.


Mary L. Kwas

University of Arkansas System (retired)

Lansing, Michigan

The William Dean Howells Society will host two panels at the 29th Annual American Literature Association Conference to be held in San Francisco, May 24-27, 2018.

William Dean Howells and Democracy Thursday, 9-10:20am

1. “Democracy and Trust in the Oeuvre of William Dean Howells,” Margit Peterfy, University of Heidelberg

2. “Utopian Visions, Realist Plans: William Dean Howells and the Birth of American Urban Planning,” Michael Gastiger, Brown University

3.“Will and Walt: Urbanism, Democracy, Aesthetics,” John Sampson, Johns Hopkins University

Howells and the Politics of Subjectivity: Gender, Class, and Race
Thursday, 1:30-2:50

1. “’I tried to see her as you do’: Gendered Subjectivity and William Dean Howells’s The Coast of Bohemia,” Jennifer Leigh Moffitt, Florida Southern College

2. “Democracy and American Girls: Gender, Class, and ‘Race’ in William Dean Howells’ International Novels,” Naoko Sugiyama, Japan Women’s University

3. “’The Instinct of Righteous Shame’: Liberal Guilt in Annie Kilburn,” Harry Wonham, University of Oregon

Howells Society Business & Planning Meeting Thursday, 3-4:20 Everyone is welcome! Take part in planning upcoming Society events, including next year’s ALA panel topics and the centenary of Howells’ death in 1920.

CFP: Howells Panels at ALA 2018

The William Dean Howells Society welcomes submissions for two panels at the 29th Annual American Literature Association Conference to be held in San Francisco, May 24-27, 2018.

Panel 1: William Dean Howells and Democracy 

Historically, the subject of Howells’s politics has been a matter of dispute. For some—most notably H. L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis—Howells evinced a contemptibly timid conservatism that was an impediment to political progress. Whereas for others, like Timothy Parrish, Howells stands as the Gilded Age’s “most politically radical writer.” What is incontestable, however, is that politics remained a constant concern for Howells, from his early days as a legislative correspondent, to his time as consul, and finally as the nation’s preeminent critic and novelist. In his polemical criticism, for example, he framed Realist aesthetics as a means to actualizing America’s democratic ideals. In his column of July, 1887 he writes, “Democracy in literature is the reverse of [aristocratic aesthetics]. It wishes to know and to tell the truth…it does not care to paint the marvellous and impossible for the vulgar many, or to sentimentalize and falsify the actual for the vulgar few. Men are more like than unlike one another: let us make them know one another better, that they may be all humbled and strengthened with a sense of their fraternity.” Late in his career, political matters took center stage for Howells. Alone among his peers, he famously risked his reputation and position by defending those accused in the Haymarket Affair. However, though he’d become an avowed socialist and outspoken opponent of economic inequality who sided with workers in labor disputes, Howells was critical of strikes and direct action. In The World of Chance (1893) he writes, “the right way to universal prosperity and peace is the political way…we must have the true America in the true American way, by reasons, by votes, by laws, and not otherwise.” Throughout his career, Howells’s political sensibilities evolved, but his preoccupation with democracy was unwavering. For this panel, we invite proposals for presentations that examine the subject of democracy in Howells’s work.

Potential topics could include but are not limited to:

  • Howells on the American presidency
  • Howells on protectionism vs. cosmopolitanism and globalization
  • Howells on the American nation, nationhood, citizenship
  • Howells on American exceptionalism
  • Howells’s critique of the Spanish-American War
  • Howells on foreign and / or domestic policy
  • Howells on social organization, utopianism, class struggle, direct action, etc.
  • Howells’s politicized aesthetics
  • Howells on American pluralism and diversity
  • Howells’s relation to political figures like Henry Adams, Henry George, John Hay, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., among others

Panel 2: Open Topic

For this session, we invite proposals for presentations concerned with any aspect of Howells’s life and work.

Please submit 300-500 word abstracts to Andrew Ball ( by January 24. The subject of the email should be “Howells ALA 2018” and the proposal should include any A/V needs you will require.