CFPanelists: "Black Narratives of Home/Property in American Literature" [DUE 1.25.16]

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American Studies Association
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Toni Morrison writes in her first novel 'The Bluest Eye' (1970): "Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership. The firm possession of a yard, a porch, a grape arbor. Propertied black people spent all their energies, all their love, on their nests" (18). This passage brings immediately to mind the thematic preoccupation with property and landholding throughout American literary history—from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'House of the Seven Gables' to William Faulkner's Sutpen's Hundred, Willa Cather's Blue Mesa to Arthur Miller's Willy Loman—and the place of Black narrative within that tradition. Consider, for example, contested sites of black home/property ownership in the works of Charles Chesnutt, Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison herself, and most recently Angela Flournoy.

This panel seeks to interrogate exactly these terms and cross-currents: Does African American literary history present an alternative to self-making-via-landholding? How does the Black tradition assimilate into or reject this paradigm? What are the pitfalls or advantages of such "hunger for property"? What historical dynamics are revealed by the desire for "firm possession" among the dispossessed?

Paper proposals on any period or genre of American literature are welcome. Please send questions and/or abstracts (300-500 words) to Nicholas Rinehart ( by January 25, 2016.