MMLA Panel at ASLE 2019

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Lisa Ottum / MMLA / ASLE
contact email: 

As an affiliated organization, the Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA) organizes a panel at ASLE’s biennial conference (June 26-30, 2019; University of California, Davis, Davis, CA).

The OED dates the phrase “flyover country” to 1980, a colloquialism whose usage—according to Google Ngram—has increased steadily ever since.  Indeed, in our current moment, it is difficult to escape negative media images of the U.S. Midwest.  On TV, the Midwest is often portrayed as humorously backward, a place to “escape” from (as in NBC’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).  In fiction, the region receives similar treatment: consider, for example, the unflattering portrayal of Kansas in Nathaniel Rich’s cli-fi novel Odds Against Tomorrow.  Bolstered by the opioid crisis, narratives of Midwestern decay and decline proliferate on NPR, in The New York Times, online—and, of course, in the rhetoric of President Trump, whose campaign strategically positioned Midwesterners themselves as the victims of environmental regulations and globalized trade.

What if were to imagine the Midwest otherwise—to view “flyover country” as a potential site of renewal in perilous times?  As a major farming region, the Midwest presents opportunities to reimagine industrialized agriculture and the pernicious social and ecological relations that surround it.  Likewise, the Midwest’s exploited landscapes present new imaginative possibilities: what new attachments and allegiances might be forged among people, plants, animals, microbes, and soil following coal and natural gas extraction?

In keeping with the conference theme, "Paradies on Fire," this panel welcomes submissions that explore the Midwest, if not as a “paradise,” then as a site for multispecies flourishing.  Papers might apply a theoretical concept, such as Eben Kirksey’s notion of “emergent ecologies,” to real-life developments, or they might explore artistic representations of Midwestern regeneration.  Papers focused on any period or genre are welcome, as are papers on pedagogy and/or activism.  Creative pieces will also be considered.  Please submit a 250-300 word abstract through the ASLE website (click here or click the link below) by December 15th.  Queries welcome.