Being More than Ambivalent Towards Race: Class in Contemporary African American Literature

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Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA)
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In keeping with the theme of "Debt" for the 2012 Midwestern MLA conference, this panel is interested in the class implications that contemporary African American literature offers its readership. Since the first letters written in African American literature, money has had a central place in claims for independence, subjectivity, and resistance. How has this understanding of subjectivity and resistance changed in a late twentieth/ twenty-first century context? To what extent is contemporary African American literature invested in the American dream of financial well being that characterized earlier writing?

Emblematic of this shift is Trey Ellis's "The New Black Aesthetic," in this essay he asserts that the children of the Black Arts Movement and Civil Rights Era are ambivalent towards notions of race. The ambivalence that Ellis articulates is aligned with the ease in which this younger generation of writers has in gaining access to the nation's top institutions. No longer are socio-economic concerns central to African American literary production. Similarly, Kenneth Warren in his 2011 book What Was African American Literature suggests that instead of having race literature we now have literature about race. Outside of the implications of race, both of these writers articulation of shifting racial paradigms also suggest a shift in class affiliation for African American authors. How has class stratification in the Post-Civil Rights Era changed the face of literary production within the African American community? What does African American literature look like free from financial burden? Is it still even African American literature?

Papers that address these and other questions pertaining to African American literature and class dynamics are solicited for the permanent African American section at the 2012 MMLA Convention in Cincinnati. Abstracts should be no longer that 300 words and submitted via email to Brandon Manning ( by May 11, 2012 in order to be considered.