Seminar co-chairs: Mary Isbell (University of Connecticut) and Robin C. Whittaker (St. Thomas University)
45th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 3-6, 2014
Host: Susquehanna University
Clay Shirky argues in Cognitive Surplus (2010) that, “As long as the assumed purpose of media is to allow ordinary people to consume professionally created material, the proliferation of amateur-created stuff will seem incomprehensible” (19). Shirky’s assessment offers one way of theorizing the longstanding dismissal of amateur production as inferior and even damaging to the work of professionals. This seminar will explore various ways of theorizing this dismissal, consider how amateur production has contributed to cultural history, and imagine how it will continue to shape culture in the digital age.
Encouraged by productive seminars on amateur performance at NeMLA 2011 (Amateur Performance in the Long Nineteenth Century) and 2012 (Methodologies of Amateur Theatre Studies), we are proposing a third seminar session, this time seeking papers that respond to and/or theorize amateur production across fields of art and science. Scholarly conversations on amateur literature, journalism, film, fashion, design, science, and sport have for the most part been confined to their respective disciplines. This interdisciplinary session will expand and complicate these conversations to consider the concept of the “amateur” on a larger scale, even in periods before a person doing something “for the love of it” was referred to as an amateur.
We encourage explorations across periods: from nineteenth-century amateur scientists to authors of fan fiction today, and from medieval folk ludi and craft-guild theatre to the current trend in dad bands. Because the term “amateur” has fluctuated in meaning and value in English from its emergence as a synonym for nonprofessional in the late eighteenth century, proposals should address how “amateur” will be defined in the paper and detail what constitutes “amateur production” and/or an “amateur product” for the particular field and period addressed. We also encourage papers addressing how professionally produced media (novels, films, reviews, etc.) depict amateur productions.
This session will be run as a seminar (papers circulated in advance with emphasis on discussion during the session). Please send proposals of 250-500 words electronically (.doc) by September 30, 2013 to Mary Isbell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Robin C. Whittaker (email@example.com)
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)