Historical and Fictional Accounts of "Passing" (Panel CFP)

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New Jersey College English Association
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New Jersey College English Association
35th Annual Spring Conference
Seton Hall University
Saturday, April 14th 2012

Fictional narratives of racial passing have always occupied the literary imagination, leading to an abundance of critical scholarship. Most recently, Sinead Moynihan published Passing into the Present (2010), a monograph revealing the fascination that passing still holds for a twentieth-century readership. By focusing on the contemporary narratives of Philip Roth and Danzy Senna, Moynihan traces the connection between passing and questions of authorship. Yet this continued focus on fictions of passing overlooks the historical accounts that have also been published in recent years. For instance, Brooke Kroeger's Passing: When People Can't Be Who They Are (2004) examines real-life passers in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This text joins Bliss Broyard's One Drop (2007), Martha Sandweiss' Passing Strange (2009), and Daniel Sharfstein's The Invisible Line (2010) in detailing historical passing.

Despite these recent actual stories of racial passing, critics still study passing fictions to glean some sense of what this phenomenon entails, at the expense of turning to historical accounts. What happens when we consider both fictional and historical versions of passing? Is there something that true stories of passing tell us which passing fictions cannot or vice versa? To explore these questions, this panel solicits comparative papers on the broad theme of passing from any time period; papers that compare/contrast fictional and historical accounts of this phenomenon are especially welcome. Passing can be interpreted in the broadest sense of the term—racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual—since these borders are increasingly viewed as porous. In short, this panel seeks to probe the ways we can refine our contemporary understanding of passing, by juxtaposing historical and imaginative narratives in this genre.

If you're interested please reach out to me soon—no later than January 16th—at donavanramon@gmail.com.