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.

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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 (ajball79@icloud.com) 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.

https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/cfp/2018/01/16/update-howells-and-democracy-ala-2018-deadline-extended

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 (ajball79@icloud.com) by January 8. The subject of the email should be “Howells ALA 2018” and the proposal should include any A/V needs you will require.

https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/cfp/2017/11/09/howells-and-democracy-w-d-howells-society-ala-2018

 

Howells in the News: Richard White on Howells at the OUP Blog

Abraham Lincoln, the politician whose memory and legacy dominated the Gilded Age, died as this book begins, but he never really vanished. The novelist and critic William Dean Howells captured part of the reason when he reviewed John Hay’s and John Nicolay’s monumental biography of the president in 1890. Howells wrote that “if America means anything at all, it means the sufficiency of the common, the insufficiency of the uncommon.” Lincoln had come to be both the personification of the American common people and the nation’s greatest—and most uncommon—president. Howells thought it was the nation’s common people and common traits that most mattered.

Howells, famous then and largely forgotten since, knew most everyone, but he always remained detached. He watched, and he wrote. His interventions in politics remained minor. Howells was a Midwesterner, and this was the great age of the Midwest. Originally a committed liberal, he came to acknowledge liberalism’s failures and insufficiencies, and then struggled to imagine alternatives. He did so as a writer, and he and his fellow Realists created invaluable portraits of the age. In his confusion, his intelligence, and his honesty, he reminds us that for those living through the Gilded Age it was an astonishing and frightening period, full of great hopes as well as deep fears. When Howells cryptically embraces the common, it is worth listening to him. Understanding his judgment of the “sufficiency of the common, the insufficiency of the uncommon” provides a lens for assessing the Gilded Age.

“W. D. Howells” by Underwood & Underwood, featured in The North American review. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
https://blog.oup.com/2017/09/william-dean-howells-gilded-age-excerpt/