Madness and Mayhem in Women's Novels of the Black Diaspora

full name / name of organization: 
Caroline Brown

Female madness is well represented within European and Anglo-American literature, letters, and scholarly endeavors. From Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's inaugural The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) to Elaine Showalter's The Female Malady (1987) and more recent forays into madness as a trope of female (dis)empowerment, mental illness has been largely feminized and reified into a space of literary whiteness. Nevertheless, this is paradoxical, considering the multiplicity of female writers of the black diaspora who incorporate mental illness into their work. This panel will focus on twentieth and twenty-first century novels by black women authors writing from Africa, the Americas, and Europe, who incorporate madness as a site of political, cultural, and artistic resistance, particularly as embodied in the use of experimental writing practices. This panel thus creates a conversation at the crossroads where aesthetic praxis morphs into political engagement. Interdisciplinary scholarship is welcomed. There is the potential for an edited volume.

Submit a 300 word abstract to Caroline Brown (at by March 15, 2012. Please note, special sessions must be approved by the MLA.