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Call for papers for the 42nd Annual Virtual Conference of the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association, on the subject of Discovery.


March 11-13, 2021

Organizers are currently building an online format, which will include interactive platforms to share and discuss research. This format will likely include panels, workshops, and roundtables as a way of continuing to foster the valuable exchanges and opportunities of NCSA’s conferences. The 2021 conference fees will be greatly reduced to accommodate the virtual platform.


From the organizers: Our original CFP may have inadvertently suggested that we were taking an uncritical approach to the trope of discovery, which is certainly not our intention. Please see the revised CFP below, which we hope clarifies our vision for the conference.

NCSA welcomes proposals for papers, panels, roundtables, and special sessions that explore our theme of “Discovery” in the long nineteenth century (1789-1914). Scholars are invited to interrogate the trope of “discovery” by questioning the term’s ideological and colonial implications. Why was the concept of “discovery” so appealing in the nineteenth century, and what does its popularity tell us about the people and social structures that were so invested in it? Papers might also consider indigenous perspectives that challenge ideas of western “discovery” and settler colonialism, new voices that theorize and critique nineteenth-century “discoveries,” intellectual exchange between cultures, and other methods of unmasking narratives of exploration and “discovery.”

As an interdisciplinary organization, we particularly seek papers by scholars working in art / architecture / visual studies, cultural studies, economics, gender and sexuality, history (including history of the book), language and literature, law and politics, musicology, philosophy, and science (and the history of science). In light of the many changes in pedagogy, research, and the exchange of ideas we have all experienced this past year, we particularly welcome papers, panels, or roundtable topics that address discoveries in the use of technology for nineteenth-century studies and teaching.

Papers might discuss recovering forgotten manuscripts, or discovering new ways of thinking about aesthetic and historical periods. Scholars might explore not only the physical recovery of the past (archeology, geology), but also intellectual recovery as old ideas become new (evolution, neoclassicism, socialism, spiritualism). Papers might discuss publicizing discoveries (periodicals, lectures), exhibiting discoveries (museums, world’s fairs, exhibitions), or redressing the legacy of nineteenth-century practices (decolonization of museum collections and the repatriation of colonial-era artifacts). Other topics might include rediscovering and revisiting the period itself: teaching the nineteenth century, editing primary texts, and working toward diversity and social justice in the humanities.

As indicated by the list below, we interpret our theme broadly, welcoming papers that might include, but are not limited to, treating the discovery (or questioning the “discovery”) of:

  • People (uncovering lost histories, inventing “lost cities”; ethnography, philology, linguistics; indigenous voices and resistance to being “discovered” and dispossessed), Places (maps and cartography, exploration and travel narratives), and Things (such as gold, feathers, petroleum, palm oil, artists’ pigments), and the consequences of such discoveries.
  • The Past (historical novels, monuments) and the Future (utopias, dystopias) as perceived in the nineteenth century; Recounting and Retelling the period from later perspectives (neo-Victorianism, film and media adaptations).
  • Aesthetic and Literary Movements, Genres, or Types (Arts & Crafts Movements, Chinoiserie and Japonisme, Impressionism, Medievalism, penny dreadfuls, Pre-Raphaelitism, Realism, Transcendentalism, sensation fiction, science fiction).
  • Gender and Sexuality (feminism, LGBTQ identities, masculinity studies, “New Women”).
  • The Philosophical (Carlyle, Mill, Nietzsche) or the Spiritual (Blavatsky and Theosophy, ghost stories, the occult, spirit photography, spiritualism).
  • Science (botany, Darwin and evolution, Herschel and astronomy, Mary Anning and paleontology) or Pseudo-Science (eugenics, phrenology, Lombroso and criminology, Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism).
  • Politics (presidents, prime ministers, political theorists, royalty), Legislation (child custody, divorce, property), or Transgression (crime and punishment, radicalism).
  • Nations and Nationalism (American imperialism, German unification, Risorgimento) or Revolutions and Wars (France, Civil War, Opium Wars, Boxer Uprising).
  • Religion (Great Awakening, “Jew Bill,” Catholic Emancipation), or Death and Dying (mourning practices, funerary art, death masks & photography).
  • Social Justice (“fallen” women, Jane Addams, orphanages, Poor Laws, workhouses), or Causes and Movements (emancipation, literacy and education, socialism, suffrage, vegetarianism).
  • Entertainment (magic lanterns, film, stereoscopes), the Theatrical (“well-made play,” melodrama, Catherine Gore, Ibsen), or the Musical (concerts, instruments, music halls, opera).
  • Travel (navigation, sail/steam ships, wooden / iron ships, railroads, tourism) or Technology (canals, photography, steam power, telegraph, printing).
  • The City (Chinatowns, mass transit, urban growth and renewal, slums and ghettos), or Sociability (salons, organizations, associations, clubs, restaurants).
  • Technologies of the Mind (printing, publishing, libraries, schools).


Send one-page CVs and 250-word abstracts for 15-minute papers by October 31, 2020 to:

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