Springe direkt zu Inhalt

Symposium: Competing American Literary Institutions around 1900

Jun 10, 2021 - Jun 11, 2021
Literary Institutions Symposium

Literary Institutions Symposium

Dowload the poster as a PDF file


(all times CET)

Thursday, June 10

Dustin Breitenwischer (Universität Hamburg/EXC 2020), Welcome Note
Florian Sedlmeier & Alexander Starre, “Introductory Remarks: Institutional Turns”

Sheila Liming, “The Many Little Libraries of Edith Wharton: Data, Digital Methods, and Institutional Realities”

Laura Fisher, “Social Reform and its Discontents: Practicing Literature at the Settlement House”

5-6pm (**Update**)
Florian Sedlmeier & Alexander Starre, “Howells in the Study and Cather at the Office”

Friday, June 11

Philipp Löffler, “McTeague and the Standardization of Labor”

Eurie Dahn, “The Strategic Middle: James Weldon Johnson and the Half Century Magazine

Christina Meyer, “Institutionalizing Children’s Literature: Juvenile Magazines in 19th-Century America”

6 pm   
Concluding Discussion   


In contemporary American literary studies, Mark McGurl’s The Program Era (2009) has moved the institution-based study of literature to the center of critical practice. This symposium aims to extend the scope of such inquiries, which tend to focus on the post-1945 period and the present—a timeframe which features a robust framework of established agents and institutions—further toward the past. In the United States, the turn of the twentieth century marks a critical period of institutional emergence still influencing the present not least because it revolves around a crucial tension: The increasing diversification and differentiation of the literary field at this time coincides with centralizing attempts such as the professionalization of the study of literature at universities and the founding of institutions such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This constellation engenders specific conditions of inclusion and exclusion and brings into focus not only competing communities but also their points of convergence. What is more, over the course of the twentieth century, both the centripetal and centrifugal forces of these processes of institutionalization have had a significant impact beyond the U.S. and have shaped an increasingly transatlantic and global sociology of literature.

The contributors to this two-day international symposium aim to explore the competitions and convergences resulting from the historical complex sketched above by analyzing several literary actors in their embeddedness and investment in institutional contexts. Participants will address these aspects from a variety of angles pertinent to the field of American studies and to literary studies at large. Building on individual case studies, contributors will also seek to refine existing models and theories to examine how literature as a text relates to the institution(s) of literature.


The event will take place online via Cisco Webex. Please RSVP via email to both Alexander Starre and Florian Sedlmeier by June 7. Registered participants will receive the login information shortly before the event.

Organized by Florian Sedlmeier (Freie Universität Berlin), Alexander Starre (Freie Universität Berlin), and Christina Meyer (TU Braunschweig) 

In cooperation with EXC2020, Research Area 1: "Competing Communities"