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CFP: Political Ecology in Romantic and Victorian Textual Material (Submission Deadline: 9/30/24)

Political Ecology in Romantic and Victorian Textual Material
56th Northeast MLA (NeMLA) Annual Conference, British and Global Anglophone Panel Session
Panel Chair: Dewey W. Hall, Ph.D.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Conference Dates: March 6-9, 2025

Abstract Submission Deadline: September 30, 2024

Population and production are two terms used to characterize the nineteenth century in Great Britain. For example, the population in England more than doubled by the end of the century due to improving hygiene (i.e., hygeia), increasing birth rate, declining mortality rate (e.g., medical advances), and prosperity. Public health led to a greater commonwealth. The rise of the Industrial Revolution through factories, transportation (e.g., railway), and the synchronization of time stoked the great migration from agrarian to industrial centers. Would the population outstrip production? How could production evolve to keep up with the rising population? Thomas Malthus theorized about these two factors in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) and Principles of Political Ecology (1820), encouraging abstinence to curtail population growth among other principles. As Alan MacFarlane’s “The Malthusian Trap” (2005) argues, “Malthus wrote before the huge resources of energy for humankind locked up in coal and then oil became widely available. For a while, from the middle of the nineteenth century, it looked as if the Malthusian trap was no longer operative. A combination of science (in particular chemistry) and of new resources had made it possible to more than double production in each generation.”

The delicate balance between population and production has been evident since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and The Last Man (1826), Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) (i.e., Marx’s vampire metaphor to signify capitalism, Das Kapital, (1867) among other texts. What are the consequences if population exceeds production? Checks arise whether due to disease (e.g., typhus or cholera), famine (e.g., Irish potato famine), and disaster (e.g., Tambora, 1815; Hekla, 1845; Krakatoa 1883). In the case of the 1815 Tambora eruption resulting in global climatic change for several years after the initial eruption, the British parliament was confronted with the dilemma of whether to purchase the Parthenon marbles from Lord Elgin for £35,000 or divert funds for famine relief in Ireland due to the inclement weather, poor harvest, and typhus outbreak. What if production exceeds population growth? Great supply and low demand result in deflationary pressure, inducing lower consumption, recession, and even economic turmoil (e.g., 1825, 1836–1838, 1873–96) as chronicled in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1852), George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss (1860), and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles (1891).

The panel invites proposals on the fusion of human ecology and political economy across the 19th century in textual material focusing on circumstances related to: the Malthusian trap; Ecology of Disaster; Politics of Disease; Procreation vs. Production; Political Economy of Sex and Population; Historical Marxist Materialism and Labor, etc.

For consideration, please submit an abstract (300 word limit) and biography (100 word limit). The first link is to the NeMLA online submission system. An account will need to be created with a username and password: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/Login. The next link is to the panel portal to submit the title, abstract, biography, and any media needs: https://cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/21019. The deadline for online submissions will be September 30, 2024.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the panel organizer Dewey W. Hall, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona at dwhall@cpp.edu.

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