Jesmyn Ward is a two-time winner of the National Book Award, winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award, and a recipient of the MacArthur “genius grant.” Known for her critically acclaimed fiction and non-fiction, Ward’s lyrical narratives of Black life, home, and family in Louisanna’s Gulf Coast are visceral and evocative. Moreover, while her work is often set in the same geographical region, the concerns explored within it stretch beyond the shores of the Gulf Coast, extending if not physically then cosmologically toward the Caribbean and the African continent. Yet, despite the critical celebration and geopolitical breadth of her work, Ward remains remarkably under-studied, particularly outside the United States. Her treatment of contemporary Black life in the United States and the ways continued resilience and struggle resonate in other Black or marginalized communities the world over makes Ward an urgent, critically important voice in contemporary literary studies. Her writing is crucial to theorising the contemporary moment in and beyond the US, and resonates across the most pressing social and political issues of the early twenty-first century, including: austerity capitalism, climate change, economic inequality, grief and mourning, and the legacy of slavery on contemporary US race relations. Ward’s texts are explicitly literary; she works to construct and engage with a history of other literary writers and radical thinkers. Her uses of genre, including the Southern gothic, the bildungsroman, autobiography - and even the domestic novel - are revelatory and innovative, and her movement across different modes reveals a restless drive to give the contemporary moment adequate representation.
This collection seeks to situate Ward as an essential voice in twenty-first century American and world literature. We welcome abstracts for chapters for an edited collection of essays on any aspect of Ward’s writing including but not limited to:
Grief and mourning
Intertextuality or ‘the literary’
Region/regionalism and/or world-systems/globalization
We welcome submissions from scholars at all stages in the profession and are particularly interested in proposals from women, Black, and minority ethnic scholars.
This collection is not contracted yet, but we have had productive conversations with Edinburgh University Press, which is strongly interested. Please send any initial inquiries, or 250-word article proposals and brief bios, to Sheri-Marie Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org), Arin Keeble (email@example.com), and Maria Torres-Quevedo (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 28th February 2021. The deadline for final articles will be April 2022.