The Temporal Turn in Early American Perspective


Panel organizer: Peter Jaros, Franklin & Marshall College


American literary studies has been enlivened in recent years by a fresh body of scholarship on temporality, centered principally on the nineteenth century. Critics including Thomas Allen, Wai Chee Dimock, Dana Luciano, and Lloyd Pratt have emphasized both the historical particularity of modes of temporal experience—and the plurality and friction of multiple temporalities in any period—as well as the transhistorical and transnational links offered by the notion of “deep time.” This body of work has devoted particular attention to temporalities connected with affective, political, and cultural practices and investments—from queer to regional to transnational—that run counter to an understanding of time, particularly modern time, as unified and hegemonic. While current work on temporality both draws upon and critiques the concepts of nation-time, clock-time, and “homogeneous, empty time,” all these concepts seem particularly at home in the nineteenth century, and anachronistic in colonial and early national America, where neither nation nor clock exerts a dominant pull. At the same time, works from Elizabeth Maddock Dillon’s The Gender of Freedom to Matthew Cohen’s The Networked Wilderness have offered alternative frameworks for studying temporality in early American texts. This panel asks what the temporal turn in literary studies looks like from an early American perspective. It welcomes papers addressing temporalities of reading, publication, and cultural practice; temporality as a subject of early American literary, historical, religious, and scientific works; and temporality as a problem and/or opportunity for the methods and periodization of literary history.


Send 250-word paper abstracts to Peter Jaros at by Friday, September 7, 2012.