Ethnic Tourism and Slumming in American Literature

deadline for submissions: 
January 16, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
American Literature Association (ALA) 28th Annual Conference May 25-28, 2017, Boston, MA
contact email: 

This proposed panel will attempt to collect perspectives about literary tourism, particularly regarding immigrant and ethnic communities from the nineteenth century to the present. The late 1830s and early 1840s marked the beginning of the tourist industry in North America, particularly in the Northeast United States. Representing the scores of European travelers upon his tour of the United States in 1842, Charles Dickens wrote about the visual splendor of Boston’s private houses, the State House, the Boston Common, and its immigrant populations. New York City, meanwhile, welcomed nearly 70,000 tourists annually by the mid 1830s, as travelers visited Manhattan’s noted parks and churches as well as its hidden slums.

A variety of literary genres emerged out of the rising interest in American urban areas and the ethnic populations contained within. Sensational city-mystery novels featured graphic scenes of urban decay and slumming middle-class tourists. Meanwhile, the “urban sketch”—including such purportedly non-fiction texts as George Foster’s New York by Gas-Light (1850)—aspired to be instructional guides to understanding the immigrants, beggars, workingmen, and prostitutes within urban locations. Less tawdry traveler literature such as tourist guidebooks (Appleton’s Guide Book for Travelers, among others) and travel journals (Richard Henry Dana’s Journal and Dickens’s American Notes) simultaneously sought to make immigrant neighborhoods navigable for outsiders. As fears of and fascinations with America’s diverse populations grew, sightseers could consult any of these literatures for guidance and often misguidance.

Paper proposals can analyze fiction and non-fiction genres of any time period.

 

Questions that will be considered include:

  • How are immigrant communities affected by literary intrusions into their spaces?
  • How did ethnic populations attempt to wrest back narratives from nativist writers?
  • Besides cities, what areas welcomed slumming and slumming literature?
  • What does it mean to be a tourist, and not simply a traveler, in literature?
  • How did such literature affect readers who were aspiring city tourists themselves?
  • What is the book history of slumming literature, and how did it operate in the marketplace?
  • What types of literature written by immigrants co-existed and/or resisted tourism literature?

 

Please submit 300-500 word abstracts to mdalessandro@fas.harvard.edu by January 20th.

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