The Material History of Spider-Man

full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association (MLA) Discussion Group on Comics & Graphic Narratives
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The Material History of Spider-Man: A 50th Anniversary Observance

Call for Papers for a panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, 5-8 Jan. 2012, Seattle. This panel will be sponsored by the MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives (

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, this session wishes to examine the histories imbricated in this iconic figure. From his Cold War origins in 1962, to his emergence as a symbol of the counterculture, to his commemoration of indelible moments in 21st-century America (e.g., Amazing Spider-Man #477, the 9/11 issue; or Amazing Spider-Man #583, the Obama issue), Spider-Man's continuing narrative traces/haunts/aligns with US cultural history in provocative ways. This session seeks to understand what is revealed when one follows these relationships through the proliferation of texts — dozens of different comic book series, several television shows, a number of young adult novels, multiple films and videogames, and myriad other adaptations, including a pending Broadway musical — produced over the fifty-year development of this American icon.

Possible areas of inquiry may include, but are certainly not limited to:

* Cold War technology and the origins of Spider-Man
* The liberal consensus and the masked hero
* Spider-Man and the counterculture
* Archives and artifacts: Spider-man and the multimedia trace
* Spider-Man on campus
* Spider-Man comic books as barometers of contemporary culture
* Spider-Man and 9/11
* The "Civil War" crossover series and the War on Terror
* The cultural significance of Spider-Man adapted into other media
* Spider-Man in the age of Obama

Send 500-word abstracts in .doc or .pdf form to Derek Royal, The deadline for submissions is 5 March 2011. Submitters will receive notification of results by no later than April 1.

Please note that all prospective presenters must be current MLA
members by no later than 7 April 2011.

This CFP can also be viewed at the website for the MLA Discussion
Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives (