Hosted by the University of South Alabama’s Department of English, "Captivity Writing Unbound" is a small interdisciplinary conference whose aim is to explore and extend the traditional boundaries of the study of captivity writing.  Thirty papers have been chosen for inclusion in ten panels, which will be presented sequentially rather than concurrently in order to foster substantial exchange of ideas and perspectives among participants.  These papers make use of a wide range of theorists—for example, Butler, Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, Heidegger, Kristeva, Lacan—and an equally wide range of approaches and/or lenses—genre, geography, history, theory, and/or metaphor—to discuss topics ranging from uterine captivity to the Vietnam War memorial and materials as disparate as liturgical documents of 11th century Iberia and Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga’s semi-autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions. After the conference, selected papers will be solicited for inclusion in a collection edited by Pat Cesarini and Becky McLaughlin.

Early American scholar Michelle Burnham, who teaches at Santa Clara University, will deliver the keynote address on the opening day of the conference.  As early as 1997, Burnham was already thinking beyond the usual confines of the captivity narrative when she published Captivity and Sentiment: Cultural Exchange in American Literature, 1682-1861, and the conference will benefit greatly from her presence and participation.

The conference will be held at USA’s Baldwin County campus, which is set in the heart of the quaint artist community of Fairhope, overlooking scenic Mobile Bay.


Becky McLaughlin is an Associate Professor of English at the University of South Alabama, where she teaches critical theory, film, and gender studies.  She has published articles on hysteria, perversion, paranoia, the gaze and modern poetry, as well as works of fiction and creative nonfiction.  She has also co-edited Everyday Theory, a critical theory textbook, and is currently writing a book on the pedagogy of psychoanalysis entitled Chaucer’s Cut as well as a collection of short stories, The Left Ear of Pain.

Patrick Cesarini is an Associate Professor of English at the University of South Alabama.  He teaches courses in American literature, critical theory, and composition.  He has published articles and given presentations on the missionary literature of colonial New England, on Walt Whitman, and on the theory of genre.  He is currently researching the early history of the Wampanoag town of Mashpee, Massachusetts.


Michelle Burnham is Professor of English at Santa Clara University, where she teaches and writes about early American literature, Native American literature, and popular culture. She is the author of Captivity and Sentiment: Cultural Exchange in American Literature (1997) and Folded Selves: Colonial New England Writing in the World System (2007). She prepared the Broadview edition of The Female American and also edited A Separate Star: Selected Writings of Helen Hunt Jackson. She is currently at work on a book titled The Calculus of Risk: Narrative and Numbers in the Revolutionary Atlantic-Pacific.