ACLA 2016: The House in Literature: practices of commemoration, consumption, display and self-fashioning.

Diviani Chaudhuri's picture
Call for Papers
March 17, 2016 to March 20, 2016
Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Literature, Urban Design and Planning

The American Comparative Literature Association's 2016 Annual Meeting will take place at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts March 17-20, 2016.

Innovative presentations are invited for the proposed seminar, "The House in Literature: practices of commemoration, consumption, display and self-fashioning." 

250 word abstracts must be uploaded to the ACLA website at between September 1 and 23, 2015. Interested participants are encouraged to contact the seminar organiser at with any questions or possible ideas for presentations/presentation format well before the submission deadline.

The following CFP may also be found here:

Drawing on the work of early twentieth century scholars and authors such as (but not limited to) Gaston Bachelard, Martin Heidegger, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf, to more recent work by Pierre Bourdieu on the Kabyle house, Mark Girouard on the English country house and Carel Bertram on the Turkish house, this seminar will examine representations of the private residence in literature in relation to practices of commemoration, consumption, display and self-fashioning.

While structuralists following Bourdieu sought to show that the order of the house served as the basis for homologies with other domains (including expressive systems), more recently, Antoinette Burton has positioned the house as a "material archive for history" and a "real political figure in an extended moment of historical crisis" in the context of violent state-formation in South Asia, which generated a large population of refugees across social classes essentially dispelled from their homes based on ethnreligious affiliation.

This seminar seeks to expand this body of work by asking:

If the twentieth century is characterised by refugeehood and statelessness, how does literature grapple with multiple dispossessions of house and home? What functions does the house serve in literary cultures, especially in such violent transitional moments?

To what extent does the house function as a metonym for nation and as a mnemonic for national identity?

How does the private residence articulate with literary representations of the city, and with landmarks, public monuments and civic spaces therein, especially given the overexposure of the figure of the flaneur in the scholarship on urban modernity?

In what ways do domestic architecture and interior objects order literature?

In what ways does the house figure in practices of literary self-articulation?

How do literary cultures represent as well as shape women's relation to household commodities and to consumption?

How do literary representations of domestic interiors and spatial practices inflect discourses of (colonial and transnational) modernity and postcolonial nostalgia?

Can certain forms of residential dwellings--vernacular forms such as the courtyard house, for instance--serve as iconic repositories of the past? If so, what role does literature play in investing meaning(s) to this past, and in its strategic revision through memory-work?

While some private residences are monumentalised for large-scale public consumption--as is evidenced by the long history of the American house museum, for example--others cannot be preserved as historical sites. In what ways and to what ends can literature 'musealise' these houses and participate in the cultures of display?

Contact Info: 

Seminar Organiser:

Diviani Chaudhuri

PhD Candidate

Department of Comparative Literature

State University of New York at Binghamton

Contact Email: