1930s American Activist Literature

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MLA Special Session, Chicago (Jan. 9-12, 2014)
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Depression-era writers responded to the vulnerabilities exposed by economic crisis, social unrest, and environmental catastrophe with artistry motivated by activism. Whether promoting proletariatism or advocating on behalf of women, people of color, and immigrants, revitalizing realism or advancing regionalism, writers leveraged language and literature as a tool to raise political consciousness and bring about social change. While comparisons between our current "economic slump" and the Great Depression are rife, the merits of activist literature from this era have been forgotten or perhaps omitted.

This proposed special session for MLA's January 2014 convention seeks scholarship on the marginalized writers or forgotten works from the 1930s and may address the following questions:

What are the connections between writing and culture in this era?

Should we read activist literature differently from aesthetic literature? If so, how do we read and interpret activist literature from this decade and what are the uses of these texts for us in the present?

What did these texts do? What purposes or functions did these documents serve in their original contexts?

What do they tell us about America and American cultures during the decade? In what ways can critical perspectives limit or enhance what the texts disclose?

Send 300 word abstracts by March 15th to msullivan@mercyhurst.edu

MLA Conference Theme: Vulnerable Times addresses vulnerabilities of life, the planet, and our professional disciplines, in our own time and throughout history. Its aim is to illuminate acts of imagination and forms of solidarity and resistance that promote social change. The theme and my interest in vulnerability derive from my long-standing feminist work on lives that have been marginalized, forgotten, or omitted from dominant histories and narratives.