Call for Papers: “The Gin and Whiskey of Literature”: The Dangers of Novel Reading (Panel at NeMLA, Harrisburg/PA, 3-6 April 2014)

Carolin Lange (German literature, University of Washington) and Marie Léger-St-Jean (English literature, University of Cambridge) are seeking contributions to a panel at the 45th Annual Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), 3-6 April 2014 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Their projected panel

will seek to contrast and compare the attitudes towards and economics of popular culture in different countries from the 18th century onwards. We invite papers of all kinds: e.g. on the dangers of reading from medical history or media history perspectives; cheap literature and its distribution, perception, or poetics. […] We would like to bring together scholars of cheap literature across periods and national borders to better understand how, both generally and specifically, it was distributed, feared, and censored. Starting around 1750, identificatory reading was believed to ruin (sexual) morals, middle-class core values, aesthetic standards, health, and intellect. By the mid-19th century, when novels were sold in weekly penny numbers, the British middle classes lived in — rather hysterical — fear of being poisoned by their novel-devouring servants and maids. Later, in the 1920s, the German parliament passed the so-called “Trash- and Dirt-Literature-Law.” Interestingly, the rationale always calls upon dietary and medical imagery, regardless of time and place.

The deadline for 250-500 word abstracts is 30 September 2013.
The full CfP can be found here.



  1. Frances Luttikhuizen · · Reply

    I know the conference is passed, but I need to get in touch with Marie Léger-St-Jean and I don’t know how. I’m a retired professor of applied Linguistics from the Universitat de Barcelona.

    1. Marie Léger-St-Jean has a fantastic website on Victorian penny fiction which also includes contact information; see Hope this helps!

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