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  • First Issues: An Introduction to J19
  • Dana Nelson and Chris Castiglia

In May 2010, C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists convened for the first time at the Pennsylvania State University. Not only did the conference launch a new scholarly society; it was the first occasion on which such a wide range of scholars working in the field came together. The breadth and depth of scholarship in the field were amply evident, reflecting the vibrancy and innovation that characterize nineteenth-century literary studies in the new century. Important overarching issues emerged across the disparate papers and panels, signaling some of the more important directions in literary studies broadly and nineteenth-century American literary studies specifically. Where is “America” and how is the object of “American” literary studies located geopolitically? The crucial need for epistemological units beyond the nation-state—the oceans, the hemisphere, the cross-national, the cosmopolitan, local social formations, ecologies— was everywhere evident. The material objects of our study—digital humanities, new media, visual culture, cartography, tracts, serial publication, book history, and others—were taken up alongside the more conventional forms of “literature.” Genres that have not received the attention they warrant—most notably, poetry—were more deeply explored, while alternative ways of knowing the “human”—interracial, spiritual, variously sexual, communal, cognitive, disabled, biological, inanimate, spectral, colonized and disasporic—displaced ontological certainties at the heart of liberal humanism. The extensive interdisciplinarity of scholarship in the field was clear, as were (re)emerging conceptions of aesthetics, formalism, philology, and phenomenology. Many scholars explored the possibilities for a post-critique criticism rooted in enchantment, idealism, identification, and pleasure. The second biennial [End Page 1] C19 conference, convened in April 2012, at Berkeley, continued and expanded this robust set of conversations.

The nineteenth century has been the location of much of the best and most innovative scholarly and critical work in recent years, due in large measure to the ways in which this field has expanded, reshaped itself, and been in lively contact with adjacent chronological and disciplinary fields. That is, the nineteenth century, an arbitrary chronological field traditionally divided by its practitioners into antebellum and postbellum, has lately been seen at once in a more holistic fashion as a century, as a set of smaller and more finely construed periods, and as an arbitrary swath of time that must be seen in relations of continuity with the early twentieth century and the late eighteenth century

Largely to give the enthusiastic conversations and inventive scholarship a place to develop, deepen, and more widely circulate, C19 launched a new journal, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Principally a journal of literary studies, it will nevertheless construe “literature” broadly and will sponsor explicitly interdisciplinary work at every turn, an aspect of the journal that our multidisciplinary board will help us foster. The essays and forums in this inaugural issue reflect some of the most important currents in the field today. Taking up topics such as Emily Dickinson’s relationship to Haiti, visual representations of African American children and the question of historical inevitability, slavery reparations in the work of Stephen Crane, and the circular logics of democracy in Tocqueville and Melville, the four featured essays reflect challenges to the epistemological underpinnings—geographical, disciplinary, sociopolitical—that have characterized nineteenth-century American literary studies in the past. Our two forums—one on new developments in poetics edited by Max Cavitch and the other on possibilities for post-critique epistemologies of enchantment edited by Nancy Bentley—evince the far-reaching methodological innovation underway in nineteenth-century literary and cultural studies. One of the most distinctive features of J19, Pleasure Reading, highlights the motivations and enthusiasms animating our interests as scholars. Our first contributions in this feature attest to a variety of pleasures—in methodological innovation, in affective responses to favorite texts, in the life-lessons of literary form

We invite essay submissions in all areas of American literary and cultural studies from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. [End Page 2] Manuscripts should not be under consideration elsewhere, and they should not identify the author except on an accompanying sheet that includes the title of the...


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