Call for Proposals: “Unformalism” Panel for NASSR at Brown, June 22-25

Annual Meeting of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism
Brown University, 22-25 June 2018
Call for Panelists

From Coleridge’s “caverns measureless” to Shelley’s “pil’d” and “primeval” floes of ice, from Blake’s “want of … bounding form” to the “chaotic universality” of Schlegel’s fragments, Romanticism is preoccupied with forms verging on formlessness. Even as the Romantics theorized organicist models of form that privileged totality, unity and harmony, they tested forms that were interstitial, fissured, and open in contour. This panel explores the tensions and collusions between form and formlessness, and the crisis such collusions induce for thinking about the patterns of literature.

We are especially eager to consider the following questions: How do Romanticism’s open forms and fragmentary poetics call into question or model alternatives to the notion of form as rigid and inflexible—as an agent of containment and control? What is Romantic formlessness? What is its politics? Can forms, for instance, not only capture the self-contained and the (pre)determined, but also open up to the intermediary and the transitory? Are form and unform processes or states, things or actions? What is the relation between formalization and deformation? How might literature precede formalization or escape it altogether? If Romantic form is aligned to organicism and vitality, what is the relation between the unformed and the inorganic and lifeless? If formlessness is an iteration or type or instantiation of form (rather than its antithesis), what is not form in the Romantic period? If formlessness is form, where does form begin and end? Do open or intermediary forms possess particular affordances? What are their pitfalls and liabilities? Finally, do these forms ask us to read differently? What un-formalisms might Romantic formlessness produce?

We invite proposals for 15-minute papers that take up (but are not limited to) the above provocations and questions. Submit proposals for consideration by 8 December 2017 via email to Devin M. Garofalo, Florida Atlantic University (, and Devin Griffiths, University of Southern California ( Presenters will be notified of acceptance no later than January 1.