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Call for Papers    

"The Cultures of Mason & Dixon"
Studies in the Literary Imagination. Spring 2004
Deadline: December 1, 2002

THE NOVEL: A novel about drawing a conceptual line in space, _Mason & Dixon_ uses the "line as literal and figurative spine for a corpus spreading over the globe and across two centuries. _Mason & Dixon_, with its innumerable characters and plots, its huge length, and its complexity of tangled historical events, represents what has come to be recognized as a long and packed century. The culmination of the early modern era, the eighteenth century as rendered here indeed packs in historical events: of documented history alone, we encounter among other things Symmes' hole, Jenkins' ear, the Transit of Venus, Jesuits in Quebec, of course the Mason-Dixon line and, everywhere, slavery.

This is all the stuff of history both real and imagined, the inarguable records passed down in cold fact and brought to life again with character and narrative. But _Mason & Dixon_ is more than a "historical novel": beyond just the record of what _did_ happen, it animates what _might have_ happened in a century most noted in the West for its rationalism and
"cool," scientific interests, and it revivifies the cultural-material world that could and did produce, in historical fact, both widespread reform of weights and measures _and_ common sideshow-type exhibits featuring "talking" dogs, wax automata and Vaucanson's mechnical duck.

While _Mason & Dixon_ is indeed about history, it is just as importantly about historiography: meshing together eighteenth- and twentieth-century —often in purposely jarring disjunctions, with its ubiquitous anachronisms—the novel offers the past 200 years as one long "scene," the difference between the centuries being very little in cultural and popular cultural terms. In overlapping both "real" and imaginary eighteenth centuries AND eighteenth- and twentieth-century culture, the factual comes to be—who can say at just what point, exactly?—outrageous. For instance, Timothy Tox, Pynchon's "national" poet, author of the frequently "quoted" _The Line_ in _Mason & Dixon_ certainly bears close enough resemblance to Joel Barlow, poet of the doggerel _The Columbiad_ to make one question whether exact quotation or sheer invention is Pynchon's method here.
Likewise, the supernatural exists side by side with the natural in the sense that Jésus Arrabal, a character from _The Crying of Lot 49_, describes "magic" as "another world's intrusion into this one" (_Lot 49_88).

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: We are seeking explorations of the interface between eighteenth-century or twentieth-century (or both) cultural phenomena and _Mason & Dixon_'s reconstruction and revision of them. Possible topics include:

The Captivity Narrative
Pat O'Brien's Novels
"buddy stories"
Feng Shui
Electricity or other scientific projects
Mourning and Melancholia
Race and/or Ethnicity
William Emerson's "On Fluxions"
Fairy Tales or Children's Stories (e.g., Jack and the Beanstalk)

Abstracts due to editor, 1 December 2002
Editor submits to _SLI_ 1 February 2003
(IF ACCEPTED) Finished Essays to editor, 1 July 2003
Edited Essays to _SLI_, 1 October 2003
Issue to the Printer, 1 March 2004
Issue to Print, 1 May 2004

For information about _SLI_, see

Editor: Elizabeth J.W. Hinds
Department of English
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, CO 80639-0050