CFP: [African-American] Free Womanhood Revealed: A Critical Response to Pearl Cleage

full name / name of organization: 
Aisha Francis
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Book Title: Free Womanhood Revealed: A Critical Response to Pearl Cleage
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Abstract Deadline: June 30, 2008
Article Deadline: September 15, 2008

This first ever critical collection focusing on the cultural
contributions of Pearl Cleage will address the full range of literary,
essayistic, theatrical, and political texts authored by this prolific
feminist writer. After decades of producing and promoting her work and
that of many other black women artists, Cleage is now enjoying a heralded
heyday of public attention, that began in the late 1990s, thanks to the
selection of her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day,
as one of the early Oprah’s Book Club picks.

Like many contemporary African American women writers including Thulani
Davis, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Sylvia Wynter, Ntozake Shange,
and Gayle Jones, her work has been absorbed into the teaching canons
of "African-American Literature," “Multicultural US Authors,” or “Writing
and Gender in the US,” and to a lesser extent “Southern Women Writers”
and “Black Studies.” Certainly, there is a dearth of critical
considerations of many of black women writers. However, given her
popularity and acclaim, Cleage in particular has not received the
critical attention required to unpack the importance of her unique
subject position as both a serious regional writer who centers herself in
black womanhood, and one who has garnered mass appeal and maintained a
cross-over audience.

Pearl Cleage’s aesthetic and her cultural-political interventions into
the intersections of free womanhood (to use Cleage’s own term), the post
Civil Rights Movement, the New South, and cultural epidemics such as
HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and the international sex trafficking trade,
demands a in-depth scholarly response to the breadth and scope of socio-
political debates her work engages.

We have witnessed the trajectory of her immense popularity as a New York
Times best-selling author, and yet have not seen the complimentary
development of critical essays that would more fully place Cleage’s
literary accomplishments into proper contemporary and historical context.
This special collection will respond to the need for careful, critical
reconsideration of both how Cleage’s work stands alone, and how it can be
addressed as being in dialogue with the cultural production of others.
We welcome contributions from invite scholars, artists, writers, and
activists on the full range of Cleage’s oeuvre including her essays,
poems, journalism, plays, novels and public speeches.

Topics may include but are not limited to:
• The cultural context of Idlewild, MI
• The concept of Free Womanhood
• Black women and the HIV/AIDS epidemic
• Cleage, regionalism, and Georgia (Atlanta Tribune, the Zebra
Lounge, Spelman College)
• Socio-political influence of the Civil Rights Era
• Feminism and her work
• Making the personal political
• Poetry as a political and historical tool
• Pearl Cleage as pop culture
• Cleage and the Oprah Effect (from Oprah’s Book Club to “We Speak
Your Names” at the Oprah Legends Ball)
• Cleage and the activist impulse (HIV/AIDS; the modern day sex
slave trade; brothers on the “down low”; domestic violence)
• Cleage as intergenerational bridge-builder, mentor, and role model
• Literature as a conduit of untold history (particularly that of
black women)
• Cleage as the nexus of theory and praxis
• Cleage in conversation with a new generation of black women

Please submit one hard copy and one electronic copy (Word only) of
abstracts and completed manuscripts to:

Name: Tikenya Foster-Singletary Ph.D. and
      Aisha Francis, Ph.D.
ATTN: Pearl Cleage Project
Address: Clark Atlanta University
223 James P. Brawley Drive
104J Haven Warren Hall
Atlanta, GA 30314
Email:, or
Completed articles must be received by September 15th, 2008.
Articles and reviews should conform to MLA style.
Articles should not exceed 7,000 words in length, including endnotes and
fully documented references.
Submissions should include:
1) a mini-bio (5-10 lines)
2) a C.V. or resume
3) a 10-15 line summary (if submitting a full article).

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Received on Fri Jun 20 2008 - 15:19:00 EDT