'Maybe (S)he Had Some Authority': Celebrating the Works of Black Women Writers

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) 50th Anniversary Convention
contact email: 

This year’s NeMLA convention is historic: the organization celebrates five decades of cultivating scholarship and pedagogy in literary studies. Equally historic is the fact that 2019 is an anniversary year for pivotal texts by Black women writers. It marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Broadway debut of Lorraine Hansberry’s critically acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun (1959), and the fiftieth anniversary of Maya Angelou’s first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). Moreover, 2019 is also the fortieth anniversary of Octavia Butler’s now canonized fictional slave narrative Kindred (1979).

In light of these intersecting anniversaries, this panel seeks to analyze these specific works and/or the Black women writers who penned them. Questions to consider include (but not limited to):

1. How can we closely read and reassess these texts from a contemporary perspective?

2. How do we teach these works to a 21st century student body?

3. How have they influenced contemporary Black literature?

4. How do these texts explode the conventions of their genres (play, autobiography, and slave narrative)?

In describing her first encounter with Kevin, Dana conjectures that “maybe he had some authority” in Butler’s Kindred. The same phrase aptly applies to the Black women authors whose works have publication anniversaries in 2019. We invite papers that explore the works of Hansberry, Angelou and Butler. We encourage close readings that go against the grain, as well as new pedagogical approaches to the works.


Submit proposals via the NeMLA portal (by opening a free username account to upload abstracts). You are more than welcome to forward this CFP to any interested graduate students and faculty who research the literature of African American women. The deadline for submission is September 30th 2018.