The Idea of America

…or, to give it its full title, The Idea of America in Nineteenth-Century British Culture, 1776-1914. The is a conference to be held at the Institute of English Studies, University of London 27-28 June 2008, for which the final call for papers has just been issued. There’s a film potential there, as the conference blurb offers:

The meaning of America to those beyond its borders has rarely been the subject of such passion and global conflict as it has been in the past seven years. If we look to the long nineteenth century, however, the idea of America in British culture suggests that there is a lively pre-history of competing and opposed notions of the emergent republic. From the new world of revolution, individual liberty, democracy and freedom to the home of plutocracy and Philistinism; from avatar of the mechanical city to the last hope of utopias in the wilderness, America emerged, and continued to accrete meanings, as diverse as its landscape.

This interdisciplinary conference invites scholars to reflect on the ideas, representations and transmissions of America in Britain during the period in question. Possible subjects might include: republicanism; liberty; revolution; democracy; populism; utopias; individualism; feminism; transcendentalism; frontiers; landscapes; pioneers; displacement; plutocracy; commerce; art-collection. We encourage papers that might pursue these or other subjects using travel-writing, letters, essays, photography and painting, early film, records of travelling shows and extravaganzas in addition to fiction, poetry and drama.

Abstracts of 250-300 words should be sent to the conference organisers, Dr Ella Dzelzainis, School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London (e.dzelzainis [at] and Dr Ruth Livesey, Department of English, Royal Holloway, University of London (ruth.livese [at], by November 15th 2007.

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