CFP: African American Literature and the Law (3/29/06; MLA '06)

full name / name of organization: 
David Magill
contact email: 

"African American Literature and the Law" – A Proposed MLA Special Session

As scholars such as Patricia Williams, Eric Sundquist, and Werner
Sollors have highlighted, a dominant issue within African American
cultural history is the question of the law and legal rights. From /Dred
Scott /and /Plessy v. Ferguson /to /Brown vs. Board of Education/,
Supreme Court cases mark battle lines in the ongoing fight to gain legal
equality and identity for black men and women, reaching one conclusion
with the 1964 Civil Rights Act but revealing new questions to be asked.
Arguments for black legal representation often referenced the founding
fathers' words in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, even
as the promise of those words was forestalled. This special session
seeks to commemorate the MLA's return to Philadelphia, a central site in
the creation of the nation's legal structures, by examining African
American literature's ongoing engagement with U.S. law and political
rights. In particular, this session will explore how African American
writers have portrayed and/or critiqued U.S. legal discources for their
racial implications. In a nation where black men represent a
disproportionately large majority of felony convictions and prison
inhabitants, how do black artists engage with questions of legality and
rights? What alchemies of race and rights do African American writers
produce or highlight? How does the law haunt contemporary writers and
thinkers? What are the possibilities and limitations of U.S. democracy?

Possible topics for consideration:

Legality or the law in African American literature and culture
Identity and legal discourses/results
The African American body and the body politic
Literary representations of key legal landmarks (Civil Rights acts,
court cases)
Access to "America" and its legal promises as seen in African American
Race, rights, and democracy

Presentations on a specific author are welcome, as are papers that take
a broader view of this topic, but the goal of this panel is to re-assess
African American literature's visions of the political and civil
landscape, including its successes and failures.

Please send a 250-word abstract and a short CV by March 29, 2006. Email
submissions preferred; hard copy submissions accepted at the address below.

Participants must be members of the MLA by April 7.

Dr. David Magill
Department of English
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
450 Schoolhouse Road
Johnstown, PA 15904

--David MagillAssistant Professor of EnglishUniversity of Pittsburgh at Johnstowndem24_at_PITT.EDU(814) 269-7144 ========================================================== From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List Full Information at or write Jennifer Higginbotham: ==========================================================Received on Sat Mar 18 2006 - 13:37:20 EST