Forthcoming publication that will examine the representation and negotiation of “cultures of denunciation” in nineteenth-century American literature

Deadline: June 1, 2023

The themes of ostracism, social exclusion, and defamation have become increasingly and globally relevant in contemporary society, with the rise of cancel culture and public condemnation of perceived misdemeanors. We have recently witnessed the fall of public figures and celebrities as part of the #metoo movement; the removal of Confederate monuments; the ostracization of Russian classical culture and its undercurrent imperialism in the wake of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. However, this phenomenon is hardly new as it has manifested itself in American society as early as in the Puritan Era. The nineteenth-century culture that inherited the Puritan legacy while simultaneously attempting to challenge and alleviate it is of particular interest in the outlined context. With this in mind, we are delighted to announce a forthcoming publication that will examine the representation and negotiation of “cultures of denunciation” in nineteenth-century American literature.

The special issue aims to explore the historical roots of this phenomenon and its portrayal in literary texts, with a particular focus on themes of public indictment, demonization, and exclusion. We are especially interested in how American literature and culture played a role in negotiating deviant behavior and how it portrayed the denunciation of stigmatized behavior.

We welcome contributions that investigate the phenomenon of denunciation in literature from diverse disciplinary perspectives, such as literary studies, history, sociology, cultural studies, and others. Additionally, we encourage submissions that address questions of dissensus and public exposure from an inter- and cross-disciplinary standpoint, thereby establishing connections with ongoing debates on the topics of “cancel culture” and “calling out.”

We particularly invite essays that explore how literary texts of that time deal with the theme of stigmatized social behavior. Authors can choose to focus on any literary work from that period. The following list of works is only indicative, and other titles are also welcome: Washington Irving’s “The Little Man in Black” (1807), Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok (1824), Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie (1827), Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s

Cabin (1852), Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1853), Bret Harte’s “The Outcasts of Poker

Flat” (1869), Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Stephen Crane’s The Monster (1898), and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899). We welcome approaches that connect the literature of the time to broader social and cultural contexts.

Essays may address but are not limited to the following topics:

  • the historical roots and contemporary relevance of cultures of denunciation, including cancel culture and public condemnation of perceived misdemeanors;
  • the portrayal of ostracism, social exclusion, and defamation in literary works of nineteenth-century American literature;
  • the use of rumors, hearsay, and gossip as tools of denunciation in literary texts, and their impact on truth and falsehood;
  • the role of literature in negotiating deviant behavior and stigmatized social practices;
  • the relationship between literature and sociological practices of denunciation, and their impact on individual and communal identity;
  • ethical considerations surrounding acts of denunciation, including morality, guilt, and responsibility;
  • strategies of creative resistance to social conformity and stigmatization in literary works;
  • interdisciplinary perspectives on the phenomenon of denunciation in literature, including literary theory, history, sociology, and cultural studies;
  • the connection between literature and ongoing debates on cancel culture and calling out.

Essays should be between 5,000 and 8,000 words and adhere to the MLA citation style. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be submitted by June 1, 2023. Final papers will be due by January 1, 2024. We look forward to receiving your contributions to this important and timely publication.

Please email abstracts and inquiries, together with a 150-word bio-sketch, to:

Stefan L. Brandt (University of Graz:

Alexandra Urakova (Helsinki University; University of Tampere):