African-American Sessions at NeMLA (3/15-18/11; 9/30/11)

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Northeast Modern Language Association
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Please submit your abstract to the respective chair by Sept. 30, 2011.

African American Women in Rochester
Though Harriet Jacobs, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman all lived in or near Rochester roughly concurrently, each had a distinct relationship to self-representation. Truth promoted abolition through her portraits and public speaking. Tubman gave performances. Jacobs published an autobiography. The panel welcomes papers that explore how gender, race and class shape representations of African American women in Rochester and, consequently, public memory. Please send 250-word abstracts to Jennifer Sieck,
Approaches to Teaching the Underground Railroad (Roundtable)
This roundtable session will address approaches to teaching the Underground Railroad. Possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to, teaching specific literary texts, historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, incorporating historical sites into the syllabus, and Canadian contributions to the Underground Railroad. Interdisciplinary and team-teaching methods of instruction are especially encouraged. Please send inquiries or 250-500 word abstracts (as MSWord or PDF attachments) to Saundra Liggins .
Early African Muslims and Discourses of Resistance
This panel will examine early narratives (including first person, oral, and translated/transcribed) by Diasporic Africans as part of a discourse of resistance. Papers will essentially explore eighteenth- and nineteenth-century African Diasporic narratives, which challenge Western cultural, religious, and social values as a paradigm for intellectual thought. Papers which employ African-centered theoretical frames are highly encouraged. Please send a 500-word abstract to Fran L. Lassiter (
Framing the Black Arts Movement
The panel will explore current understandings of BAM, expecting the process to be complicated. Topics include the work of any of BAM's major figures, within the usual bounds of 1965-74, since or both; legacies of a Black Aesthetic; controversies within BAM (e.g. Baraka v. Ishmael Reed) or their echoes; models from BAM for activist cultural production in other contexts; the application to BAM of critical lenses developed since the 70s (e.g. postcolonial studies). 200-400 wd abstracts to Bill Waddell, St. John Fisher College:
Harlem Renaissance as a Usable Past
As one of the most celebrated, defining moments of African American life and literature, the Harlem Renaissance persists in our contemporary moment as a signal useable past. This panel seeks presentations that address this or related sub-themes including: invocations of the period's ethos; re-figurations of its images and practices; Harlem Renaissance and cyberspace; or re-migrations. Please forward 250-word abstracts and/or inquires to
Infighting and Rival Texts in 20th Century African-American Literature
What debates have informed our contemporary understanding of African-American Literature? Prior to its (purported) institutionalization, 20th Century African-American Literature was both a hot commodity and a dangerously fluid entity, mercurial and volatile depending on the reader. This panel intends to explore the written altercations between black writers during the years 1920-1960. 300-word Abstracts may be sent to: Timothy Griffiths, CUNY: Brooklyn College,
New Approaches to the Contemporary Narrative of Slavery
Toni Morrison's latest novel, A Mercy, demonstrates the contemporary writer's continued preoccupation with the history of slavery in the New World as well as the ever expanding range of approaches to this subject matter. This panel invites papers that examine contemporary narratives of slavery (written after 1970) and how they render this historical experience in terms that challenge contemporary readers of all racial backgrounds. Maria Bellamy

Passing, Past, Present
The racial passing narrative is been a standard in American literature and the themes of identity instability, discomfort, kinship, and belonging have more recently expanded to explore not only race but gender and sexuality. This panel seeks to create dialogue between the history and present of this evolving genre. We encourage papers that explore the interplay of multiple identities in passing narratives, queered color lines, and the adaptation of the trope over time. Submit abstracts to Lisa Brundage, CUNY Grad Center,
Race, Class, and Sentimentalism in the 20th Century
Many 19th century African American writers used sentimental forms to argue for cultural legitimacy while simultaneously critiquing sentimentalism's marginalization of African American identity. This panel invites papers examining uses of sympathy and sentimental forms in 20th century American literature to address issues of race, class, and/or national belonging. How do 20th century authors strategically deploy modes of sentimentality in their writings? Please send 250-500 word abstracts and a brief CV to Jenn Williamson (
The Radical Langston Hughes
This panel will examine the roles and forms of Langston Hughes's politically engaged poetry from the 'red decade' of the 1930s. It invites papers that add to current understandings of how Hughes approached the writing of political poetry, especially from his position as a black activist affiliated with the Communist and Popular Front Left. How did Hughes fashion himself as a 'poet of the people'? What was the relationship between his formal choices and his political commitments? Send 250-word abstracts to Sarah Ehlers,
(Re)Mixed Grooves: Disco, Hip-Hop, and the Poetics of Sampling
(Re)Mixed Grooves: Disco, Hip-Hop, and the Poetics of Sampling This panel seeks submissions addressing disco, hip-hop, sampling, and remixing which intersects—in theory, content, or practice—with literature and literary texts (whether fiction, memoir, prose, graphic novels, hypertext, paratext, experimental writing, poetry and poetics, film or television, etc). Submit proposals of 250-500 words to Clare Emily Clifford at
Sex, Blood, and Hybridity: The Discourse of Racial Anxiety in Antebellum Writing
This panel seeks to investigate how antebellum literary texts worked dialectically with the new racial science of ethnology to respond to the dominant racial ideologies of the day. Topics and/or critical paradigms can include, but are certainly not limited to: miscegenation, disease, politics, erotics, gender, feminism, science, politics, class, trauma, critical race/queer theory, reception theory, and reader-response. Send 1-page abstract and brief bio as Word attachment to Rebecca Williams,, with 'NEMLA' in subject line.
Speculative Literature from the African Diaspora: Creating Heroes and Heroines
The aim of this panel is to discuss the contributions of people of African descent to the discourse on speculative literature from the African diaspora by contemporary writers like Samuel Delany, Steven Barnes, Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, and Nalo Hopkinson. Submit 250-500 word proposal for consideration to Dierdre Powell, Anne Arundel Community College,
Teaching the Harlem Renaissance as Part of a Black Aesthetic (Roundtable)
This roundtable will explore pedagogical approaches for teaching the Harlem Renaissance across disciplines and academic levels. Proposals on any aspect of this topic will be considered, but please note that presentations must be 5-7 minutes because of the roundtable format. Papers that focus on cultural works as instrumental in creating a distinctly Black aesthetic are encouraged. Please send a 250-word abstract to Fran L. Lassiter ( Also include your name, academic affiliation, a brief biography, and contact information.
Upstate New York and Early African-American Expression
Seeking papers on African American expression (literature, oratory, performance broadly defined) in Upstate New York before 1900. Possible figures/topics include: William Allen, Louise Blanchard Bethune, William Wells Brown, Frederick Douglass, J. W. Loguen, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, James Whitfield, abolitionism, the underground railroad, Canada and transnationalism, Millard Fillmore, the Fugitive Slave Act, abolition and womens' rights, the Niagara Movement, etc. Abstracts and brief CVs to Jonathan Senchyne .
Word and Image in African-American Literature
This panel aims to investigate the relationships between visual and verbal expression in African American literature from the eighteenth century through to the present day. Particularly welcome are papers that examine the visual elements of black authored works, the relationship between African American art and literature, and the interactions between words, images, and race. Please send 300-word abstracts to Megan Walsh, St. Bonaventure University (

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