College Literature Special Issue: “Lively Words: The Politics and Poetics of Experimental Writing,” edited by Tyler Bradway.

deadline for submissions: 
July 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
College Literature

The title of this special issue draws inspiration from Gertrude Stein’s “lively words,” a style of experimental writing that has been influential for many queer and feminist experimental writers. The essays in this special issue will reconsider the “liveliness” of experimental writing in the twentieth and twenty-first century—not only how experimental poetics disrupt codified practices of reading, but also how experimental writers conceive of the relationship between their words and the social world more broadly. How does experimental writing engender political liveliness among readers, publics, and counterpublics, and what methodologies are required to understand this vital relationship between the poetics and politics of experimental writing?


Over the past decade, literary studies has witnessed a resurgence of scholarly interest in experimental writing. Too often, experimental writing has been discounted as solipsistic or esoteric—as too thoroughly invested in its own formal games to speak to the wider social and political concerns of literary studies. Yet a new wave of criticism has begun to illuminate the rich and complicated intersections between the politics and poetics of experimental writing, as evidenced by Alex Houen’s Powers of Possibility (2012), Anthony Reed’s Freedom Time (2014), Carter Mathes’s Imagine the Sound (2015), and Ellen E. Berry’s Women’s Experimental Writing (2016). In many respects, this scholarship builds on earlier feminist approaches to experimental writing, such as Ellen G. Friedman and Miriam Fuchs’s Breaking the Sequence (1989), which was foundational to understanding the political significance of experimental writing to women writers and writers contesting the gendered structures of language and identity. New approaches to experimental writing look to a more expansive range of historical contexts and literary archives, and they foreground other political concerns and social movements in their analysis, particularly the politics of race, sexuality, and class. At the same time, they draw on emerging methodologies in literary criticism, such as cognitive, affective, new media, and new materialist theories, to freshly interpret the political efficacy of experimental aesthetics for marginalized writers and social groups.


Despite this flourishing of scholarly interest, the broader stakes for turning to experimental writing now remains inchoate and under-theorized. Thus, this special issue of College Literature seeks to understand what, precisely, experimental writing has to offer contemporary literary studies and, in turn, how literary studies can newly appraise the social and historical significance of experimental writing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To this end, this special issue asks: How might scholars redraw the historical, geographical, and political coordinates of experimental writing? What new archives, movements, forms, and genres of experimental writing demand scholarly attention now? In what ways does experimental writing anticipate, contest, or speak back to recent shifts in literary studies, such as the postcritical and affective turn? What are the aesthetic politics of experimental writing in the contemporary moment, particularly in the context of digital culture, the gentrification of radical social movements, the global recession, and the politics of race, gender, and sexuality?


Submit CV and 500 word proposals for essays between 8,000-10,000 words to by July 1, 2017.


Article drafts will be due December 1, 2017 and will then be sent out for anonymous peer review.


Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

Relationships between experimental writing and political movements (Civil Rights, feminism, LGBTQ+ movements, decolonization, etc.)

Experimental writing and new approaches to the politics of aesthetics (negative aesthetics, compromise aesthetics, etc.)

Queer experimental literature

Black, Latinx, and Asian experimental writing

Women’s experimental writing

Postcolonial and transnational experimental writing

New periodizations of experimental writing and proto-experimental writing (within and beyond modernism, postmodernism, post-postmodernism, etc.)

Relationships between neoliberalism and experimental writing (class, privatization, gentrification of avant-gardes, commodification of literature, etc.)

New methodologies of interpretation for experimental writing (cognitive, affective, post-critical, digital, etc.)

Affective reading and experimental writing (bad reading, transferential poetics, uncritical reading, ugly feelings, etc.)

Experimental writing and digital literatures (e-lit, ergodic lit, cybertext, hypertext, digital poetry, etc.)

Intersections of experimental writing and the visual (graphic narrative, comics, photography, etc.)

Sound and sonic intersections in experimental writing

Collage, cut-up, appropriative writing, anti-expressive writing, etc.

Conceptual writing (intersectional critiques, considerations of race/gender/sexuality and identity in conceptual writing, post-conceptualism, non-US archives of conceptual writing, etc.)