CFP: The Nonhuman in American Literary Naturalism

Call for proposals

 The Nonhuman in American Literary Naturalism

Editors: Kenneth K Brandt and Karin M Danielsson

At the end of the 19th century, American authors such as Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Jack London were influenced by new advances in science—notably the idea of evolution. Nature and the nonhuman were crucial for these writers,
whom scholars   most often group under the rubric of American literary naturalists. Traditional scholarship on American literary naturalism has closely attended to various environmental pressures in urban and wilderness settings, but scholars have paid much
less attention to the naturalists’ investigations into the nonhuman, such as animals, plants, landscapes, houses, or weather. To extend and deepen our understanding of this under-researched field, we propose a volume of essays that offers a wide variety of
innovative critical approaches to the nonhuman in American naturalist literature. We welcome studies based in ecocriticism, animal studies, new materialism, narrative theory, or ethics. We are receptive to essay proposals focused on the core naturalists from
around 1900 as well as more contemporary writers in the naturalist tradition. Proposals may focus on authors including Crane, Norris, London, Wharton, Garland, Dreiser, Chopin, Dunbar, Sinclair, Twain, Glasgow, Frederic, Cather, O’Neill, Steinbeck, Wright,
Hemingway, Petry, Dos Passos, Larsen, Farrell, Hammett, Cain and others. More recent writers may include Oates, Vonnegut, DeLillo, Morrison, McCarthy, Wilson, Pynchon, and others.

Possible topic areas might include but are not limited to:

  • Animal agency  
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Nonhuman sentience
  • Ecology
  • Ethology 
  • Evolution
  • Farming
  • Forests, trees, plants
  • Houses and other structures
  • Human–nonhuman intersubjectivity
  • Landscape and place
  • Physical or environmental transformations
  • Posthumanism 
  • Speciesism 
  • Technology’s intersections with the nonhuman
  • Weather and climate
  • Wild, feral, and domestic nonhumans


The Lexington Books Ecocritical Theory and Practice series editor has expressed a strong interest in the project and has requested a full proposal. It is the publisher’s wish that authors or at least one co-author holds a PhD.

We invite essay proposals of a maximum of 500 words on any topic relating to the nonhuman in American literary naturalism by the deadline of the
8 January 2021. Please include a title, a maximum of five key words, and a brief biography. We aim to reply to respondents by 25 February 2021, and full drafts of essays (5000–8000 words)
will be due 1 September 2021. Please send a 500-word maximum proposal and a brief biography to and by 8 January, 2021.

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July 25, 2020: Performance of Howells’s The Smoking Car


The perils of doing a good deed

The Smoking Car
by William Dean Howells

Saturday, July 25
8 pm


Mr. Roberts is entrusted with a priceless package
by a stranger on his train: her infant child.
She is particularly anxious, and her tale is not particularly
convincing, but he’s barely paying attention.
What could possibly go wrong.

In the Rail Car Series of WD Howells’s plays (such as The Parlor Car, read on May 9),
AND an Edward Roberts/Willis Campbell story–a series in which Howells developed his trenchant satire–
The Smoking Car is a light-hearted alert to the dangers of coming to the aid of a fellow human being.

Lest we forget!

Watch by Zoom or YouTube
or tune in to


WBAI Radio 99.5 FM

Directed by John Long

Howard Pinhasik
Marlaina Powell
Jennifer Reddish
Hannah Sharafian
Blaine Smith

Please Consider a Contribution to Metropolitan Playhouse
to help us help the artists keeping the spirit of the theater alive
from their homes to yours.

Learn more about supporting artists during the pandemic
or make a donation right now


Thank you very much.

Practice Social Distancing.
Love One Another.


Thank you very much. We look forward to seeing you you back at the theater!

Howells in the News: On Civil War Monuments

An alternative history of American Civil War monuments

In the spring of 1866, William Dean Howells wondered what monuments to the American Civil War would look like. Howells, who later became the celebrated ‘Dean’ of American literary realism, had served as American Consul in Venice for the war’s duration, and his hopes for commemorative statuary in the triumphant North betray the remove from which he experienced the war’s emotional and physical ferocity. His vision was progressive and productive: instead of mourning the dead, he contended, public monuments to the war should have the power to reform the communities that encountered them.

With the full force of northern victory and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation behind him, he told the readers of the Atlantic Monthly that ‘[t]he idea of our war seems to have interpreted itself to us all as faith in the justice of our cause, and in our immutable destiny, as God’s agents, to give freedom to mankind; and the ideas of our peace are gratitude and exultant industry.’ Commemorating war from a position of peace, he maintained, involved building on the war’s gains rather than dwelling on its devastation and losses; in proving their ‘right to citizenship’ in a Union freshly dedicated to freedom, commemorative architecture and sculpture must prove ‘themselves adequate to express something of the spirit of the new order we have created here’.

Howells’ suggestive invocation of the new ‘rights to citizenship’ granted to emancipated and self-emancipated African Americans drives his point home: to earn their place in the post-war public sphere, monuments to the war must work collectively to bring the ‘new order’ declared by the Emancipation Proclamation into being. [read the rest at the link to Apollo Magazine.]

Howells’s “The Parlor Car” radio drama online May 9, 2020

From the Metropolitan Playhouse, specializing in reviving 19th and early 20th century plays, a WDH play, for your delectation:

Trouble viewing this email? Read it online

Make your Reservation on

a farce of isolation in motion, by the “Dean of American Letters”
William Dean Howells

(but no reservation is needed)


Saturday, May 9, 2020
8:00 pm

(running time: 45 minutes, with chatter to follow)

Watch the way you wish…

Right on our Webpage
YouTube Channel: Metropolitan Playhouse

and, for those who don’t like to watch…

Broadcast on Radio WBAI 99.5 FM



Virtual Lobby Open starting at 7:55.
Reading at 8:00 pm
(to allow for traffic we start a little late, it’s true)

Miss Galbraith and Mr. Richards, recently separated lovers
find themselves confined to the same compartment
of a railway car on the way to Schenectady.
Mortifying though it may be,
it is also a chance to look a little more closely
at the reason for their spat.
And when the car is de-coupled from its train,
stranded on the lonesome track…
well, who knows what may happen.

One of a series of his “railway car” farces, The Parlor Car is
filled with Howells’s distinctive wit and feel for polite niceties,
and his impatience for socially mandated confusions.
This one is particularly close to the circumstance of a socially distancing audience.
Originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1876,
the play is also particularly well suited to a “static” presentation,
though it throws down a particular gauntlet to the “Zoom drama” technique
that Metropolitan is only too glad to pick up in its evolving exploration of online drama.

Metropolitan is delighted to present these readings as a small way of keeping the theater’s pilot lit.
They also serve to help us compensate performing artists, so particularly struck by this long “pause.”
If you would like to contribute to the fund supporting these gifted and generous friends,
click here to learn about Metropolitan Artist Relief
Or here, simply to make a contribution.


Practice Social Distancing.
Love Your Neighbors.

For current information about the virus and disease, visit the Center for Disease Control website:

Thank you very much. We hope to see you at the theater soon!

Metrpolitan Playhouse
220 E 4th Street
New York New York 10009
United States

ALA canceled for 2020

Updated Message (March 20, 2020)

ALA Conference and Coronavirus:

I deeply regret to inform you that we have had to cancel the ALA conference scheduled for May 21-24, 2020 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. The current situation in California and much of the rest of the country has made it impossible for us to hold this conference.  The hotel is suspending normal operations and has agreed to allow us to cancel without penalty.

Please cancel your travel plans and your hotel reservations. [Read the rest at]

CFP: W.D. Howells panels at ALA 2020

The William Dean Howells Society welcomes proposals for two sessions at the 31st annual conference of the ALA in San Diego, CA from May 21-24, 2020.


Though born and raised in Ohio, William Dean Howells is often considered the prime shaper and protector of what Nancy Glazener terms the “northeastern urban bourgeoisie” because of his stewardship of the elite east coast literary magazines The Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s. Inspired by our transition from Boston back to the West Coast for ALA 2020, for this panel we seek presentations on Howells’s equally important relationship with the American West, broadly construed.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Howells’s upbringing in the Midwest (or the “Old Northwest”).
  • Howells’s personal and professional relationships with Western writers like Mark Twain and Bret Harte.
  • The representation of Western characters in his novels (their dialect, their worldviews, etc.).
  • Comparisons between Howells’s east coast realism and the naturalism of California writers like Frank Norris and Jack London.
  • Readings of Western settings in his novels, such as the divorce sequence in A Modern Instance, or a discussion of Howells’s lesser-known The Leatherwood God, which Edwin Cady figured as “his only true Western novel.”



With the 100th anniversary year of William Dean Howells’ death falling a few weeks before this year’s ALA conference, the William Dean Howells Society welcomes submissions on any aspect of Howells’ life, career, influence, and writing, including but not limited to his novels, short stories, plays, poems, travel writing, and literary and cultural criticism. Papers that situate their particular topics within the history and possible futures of the reading and study of Howells are especially welcome.


Please send 250-500 word proposals to by *January 30 2020. *Please note if you will require A/V for your presentation.

CFP: READING W.D. HOWELLS (1837-1920) A CENTURY LATER (NEMLA; deadline 9.30.19)



NEMLA, Boston, MA, March 5-8, 2020

In the 100th anniversary year of William Dean Howells’ death, NEMLA will hold its annual convention in the city that hosted the Ohioan’s rise to literary success and cultural celebrity. From very early in his career, Howells’ literary achievement has been inextricably intertwined, for better and for worse, with his public reputation and cultural influence. Accordingly, this panel welcomes submissions on any aspect of Howells’ life, career, influence, and writing, including but not limited to his novels, short stories, plays, poems, travel writing, and literary and cultural criticism. Papers that situate their particular topics within the history and possible futures of the reading and study of Howells are especially welcome. The panel is offered in cooperation with the W.D. Howells Society.

Submit paper abstracts of no longer than 500 words by September 30 via the NEMLA website, here: The abstract submission interface opens on June 15. If you do not have a NEMLA account, open one for free here:

If you intend to use media for your presentation, be sure to include that information in your user account when you submit your abstract. See the information under “Audiovisual Requests and Wireless Internet” for more information about available AV media, here:

Authors of accepted proposals will be notified in early October; finalization of panel, with confirmed participants, will be completed by October 15. Presenters’ NEMLA membership/registration must be completed by December 7 for their names and paper titles to be included in the conference program.



Howells Queries: Poem about Margaret Garner?

I was wondering if someone could answer a question for me; I’m assisting a faculty member at Northern Kentucky University.  We are interested in a poem W.D. Howells wrote about Margaret Garner (but the poem may not contain her name).  We think it could have been published in either The Ohio State Journal or perhaps the Ashtabula Sentinel, around 1856 (neighborhood).  Are you aware of any poem that fits this description?  Can you offer any citation information so that we may attempt to find it?

Thank you for your time and assistance,


Danny Lovell

Northern Kentucky University

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.