Toni Morrison and Expanding the American/African American Literary Canon

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2015 Annual Convention of Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA)
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For the past forty years, Toni Morrison has emerged as one of the pre-eminent authors and social critics of American/African American literature and culture. Her novels, ranging in topics from racial caste systems in The Bluest Eye to the horrors of slavery in Beloved to the traumas of foreign wars and re-integration on familiar soil in Home, represent an ongoing and oft-time harsh critique of American history and identity. Additionally, her non-fiction texts challenge readers to reevaluate notions of language and imagery in literature, and the ways in which both may distort perception, reinforce stereotypes, and circumvent understanding and acceptance. In a 1993 interview, Morrison explains her literary approach as: "Everything I've ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it, to open doors, sometimes, not even closing the book -- leaving the endings open for reinterpretation, revisitation, a little ambiguity." This panel seeks critical and creative treatments of Morrison's novels and non-fiction texts as indicative of her efforts to "expand articulation" of the American/African American literary canon. Topics for paper presentations include, but are not limited to:

 Familial/communal structures
 Spirituality
 Migration and alienation
 Language
 Identity and cultural politics
 Morrison as public intellectual
 Collective memory/cultural trauma
 Gender roles
 Morrison's work in relation to other literary, intellectual, theoretical, or political projects

Papers that explore fresh approaches to Morrison's body of work, offer critical readings of the recent fiction, and suggest responses to her non-fiction writing and work in other genres are encouraged. Proposals on any Morrison work will be considered, but presentations are limited to 10-minutes (culled from longer formal papers) because of the roundtable format. Submit a 500-word abstract of your paper by September 20, 2014 via the NeMLA website ( This year, NeMLA has implemented a user-based system to accept and track abstract submissions. In order to submit an abstract using the button for a CFP entry, you must sign up with NeMLA and log in. Using this new system, you can manage your personal information and review and update your abstract following submission.