MFS Special Issue: "Peripheral Literatures and the History of Capitalism"

deadline for submissions: 
November 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Modern Fiction Studies
contact email: 

Peripheral Literatures and the History of Capitalism

Guest Editors: Ericka Beckman, Oded Nir, and Emilio Sauri

Deadline for Submissions: 1 August 2020

This special issue asks how peripheral literatures understand on a global scale the history of capitalism from the late nineteenth century to the present. While classic Marxist theories of literature have long posited a relationship between modern aesthetic forms and the history of capitalism, their sites of inquiry remain for the most part bound to the heartlands of capital accumulation in Europe and North America. Informed by recent discussions of world literature, the planetary turn, peripheral realisms, and peripheral modernisms, this issue asks after the specific ways in which literature expresses moments of transition on the peripheries and semi-peripheries of the capitalist world-system. We are interested in how literature engages with the specific material conditions that have characterized peripheral and semi-peripheral societies in specific moments—including but not limited to the history of chattel slavery and other forms of coerced labor, the predominance of agrarian over industrial modes of capital accumulation, and the susceptibility of peripheral societies to global financial flows. Literature’s engagement with the unique conditions of the periphery should not be seen as occurring at a remove from the development of the world-system as a whole; rather, we are interested in exploring the specific ways peripheral literatures allow us to grasp global economic transformations of which they are a necessary part. To read authors such as Rabindranath Tagore, Abdelrahman Munif, Roberto Bolaño, Toni Morrison, Clarice Lispector, and James Joyce together is to see that these dynamics are not the same always and everywhere, and it is precisely for this reason that we focus on the ways peripheral and semi-peripheral texts, in terms of both their specific contents and forms, create new knowledge about the world-system itself.

Ongoing critical engagement with topics such as extractive capitalism, financialization, and neoliberal austerity mark a deep concern with the relationship between literature and the economic. And yet most contemporary approaches remain committed to thinking primarily about the subjective dimension of capitalist transformations. How then might peripheral literatures make visible the realities of global capitalism, allowing us to see in new ways a system that continues to rest on the division of the planet into economic centers, peripheries, and semi-peripheries? What does the history of capitalism look like when viewed from the periphery? And what might literary history look like when viewed from the same vantage point?

Essays should be 7,000-9,000 words, including all quotations and bibliographic references, and should follow the MLA Handbook (8th edition) for internal citation and Works Cited. Please submit your essay via the online submission form at the following web address:

Queries should be directed to Ericka Beckman (, Oded Nir (, and Emilio Sauri (