Bitter Critique, Emphatic Rebellion: The Politics of Writing While Black (NeMLA 2019)

Cynthia Cravens's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2018
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
Literature, Film and Film History, Popular Culture Studies, African American History / Studies, Race Studies

Seeking abstracts for a panel featured at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) to be held March 21-24, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Riffing off Du Bois ("Criteria of Negro Art"), Wright ("Blueprint for Negro Writing"), Lorde ("Poetry is not a Luxury"), Baraka ("Black Art"), and many others, this panel seeks to situate, examine, interrogate, and align black writers in American literature and culture. Our objective is to define the many ways black/African American/Negro/Slave writers have characterized or fictionalized what it “means” to be a writer of color.

As Toni Morrison has written, a “black author…is at some level always conscious of representing one’s own race to, or in spite of, a race of reader that understands itself to be ‘universal’ or race free.”

In ways both explicit (manifestos, essays, speeches) and implicit (fictionalized accounts of black writers), writers have created or responded to these representations and have made conclusions about just what exactly African American literature is or should be. Should it uplift? Should it critique? Should it represent the best of the race (Du Bois) or incite a revolution (James T. Stewart)? At stake is an understanding of the evolution of the Black Writer as we have moved from an origin of slave narratives to “post-racial” narratives.

Suggested topics (by no means exhaustive):

· Depictions of African American writers in fiction, drama, and on the screen (e.g. Keegan-Michael Key in Netflix’s Friends from College)

· Comparative analyses of essays on black cultural production (e.g. Hughes’ "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" with Stewart’s “The Development of the Black     Revolutionary Artist”)

· “The making of the artist/writer” novels (kunstlerroman) or biographies/biopics.

· The socio-cultural tension between black intellectuals and black genre writers

· The “duty” of black writers as articulated or contested through various movements (Harlem Renaissance, Protest Literature, Black Power, Blaxploitation, post-modernism, etc.)

· The role of criticism and book reviews in shaping the “ideal” black writer

All approaches and methodologies are welcome.

Please submit a 300-word abstract by Sept. 30, 2018.

To submit, open a username account (free) and upload your abstract via the NeMLA portal here:

Contact Info: 

Cynthia Cravens, University of Maryland Eastern Shore

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