CFP: Roundtable: The Place of the Popular: Culture, Classroom, and Field [NEMLA 2020]

Kathryn Hendrickson's picture
Call for Papers
March 5, 2020 to March 8, 2020
Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields: 
Literature, Popular Culture Studies, Teaching and Learning

For this roundtable, we invite explorations of the intersections between scholarly, institutional, and pedagogical thinking about genre.

Professional literary study in the contemporary disciplinary sense is inextricably linked to the question of canon—it is chronologically coextensive with mass-market literature, and has historically filled the need to sort legitimate art from its pretenders, invaders, competitors, and appropriators. And yet genre fiction’s place in culture, and in academia, continues to grow. Some view academic acceptance of genre fiction as a cheap trick: as humanities fields see fewer majors and smaller enrollments, departments turn to courses on popular culture to attract more students. But genre is increasingly central in and to literary scholarship, too. The current institutional threat to the humanities coincides with a significant rethinking of the boundaries of canon, the theoretical and methodological questions of genre and its objects, and the place of popular fiction in the culture, the classroom, and the field.

The goal of this roundtable is not to propose a new institutional theory to demonstrate the value of the humanities or literary study, but to engage a conversation about the current significance and opportunities of genre in the profession, in scholarship, and in the classroom. In the context of the ongoing lament about the death of the humanities, what does genre fiction reveal about the place of literature in culture and suggest about the relationship between “legitimate” and popular culture? In what ways does bringing genre into the classroom offer space for a different kind of pedagogy than a focus on works categorized as “literary"? In what ways can we as teachers continue to expand and address the boundaries of mainstream scholarship in ways that benefit our students? How does the study of genre fiction enable explorations of counter-perspectives, new modes of readership, and institutional mission?

Abstracts of 300 words and a brief bio are due by September 30, 2019.

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NeMLA 2020 will be held in Boston March 5-8 2020 at the Marriot Copley Place. NeMLA information:

Contact Info: 

Please send any questions to Kathryn Hendrickson [] and Mollie Eisenberg []