Spaces between Fiction and Nonfiction in Literatures of Witness (NeMLA 2019)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

“Something must be said. Must be said that has not been and has been said before.” —Minh-ha Trinh, from Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcolonialism and Feminism

Mainstream journalism and non-fiction reports on war and conflict often reinforce the same injustices they address, even when their goal is to critique human rights violations. On one hand, they can spectacularize suffering; on the other hand, they can de-emphasize individual suffering through “us versus them” rhetoric or distancing imagery, such as the US media’s focus on “shock and awe” tactics in the “war on terror.”

In contrast, literature based on testimony and witnessing can subvert these tendencies. Many contemporary global writers weave news reports and other forms of media into narratives of human rights violations to express multiple histories and perspectives, in line with Nadine Gordimer’s notion that fiction can be more truthful than nonfiction. In this way, they broaden existing frameworks for understanding violence and offer alternative lenses onto human rights conflicts.

This panel seeks papers on literature and film that subverts, challenges, or destabilizes mainstream news representations of conflict. We particularly welcome papers on texts that “challenge traditional notions of history, territory, and identity,” drawing on this year’s NeMLA theme. Focal areas may include any genre and medium, including film, prose, and poetry. Please send 200-300 word abstract and bio in a single document to Ann Reading and Lisa Propst through the NeMLA submission portal: