UPDATE Existential Thought in African American literature Before 1940 (DEADLINE EXTENDED to August 15, 2014)

full name / name of organization: 
Melvin G. Hill
contact email: 


A major publisher has shown considerable interests in a collection of essays focused on the roots of African American existentialism that predates the codification of the term by Jean-Paul Sartre in the post-World War II period. Instead of borrowing from post war European thought, African American existentialism becomes an independent tradition, one that actually predates its European twin. The experiences of enslavement and ongoing oppression produced a characteristically existentialist consciousness among African Americans. Existentialism's abiding concerns with the definition of humanity and the individual's need to actualize under conditions of social and psychological alienation are epitomized, in very literal terms, by the African American struggle to assert their essential humanity in the face of dehumanizing slavery, segregation, and other forms of racism.

Essays in this collection should trace the construction and evolution of existential thought in African American literature before the post-World War II period. Some possible authors include, but certainly are not limited to:

Phillis Wheatley
Harriet Jacobs
James Weldon Johnson
Maria W. Stewart
Martin Delany
Anna Julia Cooper
Sutton E. Griggs
W.E.B. DuBois
Charles W. Chesnutt
Nella Larsen
Rudolph Fisher
Wallace Thurman

Please submit a 500 - 750 word abstract to Melvin Hill, Assistant Professor of English Studies, University of Tennessee, Martin, at mhill33@utm.edu by August 15, 2014. Indicate the anticipated word length of your essay (5000-6000 words) along with a biographical note (200 words) describing your qualifications for writing your essay. Authors will be notified of acceptance by September 15, 2014. Once abstracts have been accepted, a prospectus will be submitted to publisher. If accepted, contributors will be contacted with a due date for their chapters.