Linguistic Reimaginings in Speculative Fiction (MLA 2020)

deadline for submissions: 
March 20, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
MLA 2020
contact email: 

New worlds and beings often entail alternate modes of communication and understanding. Posing speculative circumstances, lands, and creatures, works of science fiction and fantasy are therefore particularly conducive to linguistic reimaginings. Indeed, numerous speculative fiction narratives foreground a linguistic component: seemingly peculiar languages and unusual linguistic constructions drive characters to grapple with notions of communication, alterity, and humanity.

We invite presentations that examine linguistic matters in speculative fiction. Papers might consider inter-species communication (as in China Miéville’s Embassytown), methods and mechanisms of translation and communication – if these are even possible (Star Trek’s “Darmok”), non-verbal communication (Octavia E. Butler’s “Speech Sounds”), language as a tool wielded by characters (Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17), the role of language in shaping not only thought and characters’ perceptions and understanding of reality, but the structure of the narrative itself (Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” and its film adaptation Arrival). These approaches and narratives are just a few among many; we welcome creative analyses of the representation and function of language and/or linguistics in speculative fiction across media, cultures, and traditions.

Please submit your 200-word abstract and C.V. to Rhona Trauvitch at by March 20, 2019.