Maskin' Ain't Easy: Centuries of Masking and Performing In African American Literature (November 7-10 Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

full name / name of organization: 
André Stefan Johnson/Midwest Modern Language Association

Masking and Performing in African American Literature

Maskin' Ain't Easy: Centuries of Masking and Performing In African American Literature

"We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise."
(Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask—1896)

For the past three centuries African American Literature has been a body of work that has shown the complex existence(s) of African Americans in a race and gender based society. Two of the core elements that African American writers have continually implemented in their work has been "masking" and/or "performing." This panel seeks to address and consider how African American literature uses, critiques, engages, and displays elements of "masking" and/or "performing." Papers may focus on any aspects or modes of African American Literature from 19th, 20th, and 21st century writers that utilize either "masking" and/or "performing. Essays may focus on, but are not limited to: class, race, gender, identity, religion, and any other subjects.

If we take into account the words of Toni Morrison and believe that "the ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power," then what images of " masking" and/or "performing" have African American writers familiarized and mystified for us? What have they taught us about the power of the African American self or selves? More importantly, what do we as scholars and critics of African American literature have to say about our writers and their narratives of "masking" and/or "performing"?

Please send 200-300 words abstracts to by June 1, 2013. Please include your name, (institutional affiliation) contact information, including email address, and phone number.

Chair: André Stefan, Albany State University