Hot Commodities: Consuming Crime in the 20th and 21st Century (NEMLA 2020 Panel)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

CFP for the 51st Annual NEMLA Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, March 5 - 8, 2019

The entertainment industry has produced an onslaught of true crime media. It began with This American Life's podcast Serial and Netflix’s Making a Murderer. Each show focused on an individual murderer and whether or not their conviction was warranted. These series ignited interest in true crime media and a slew of shows followed in their wake. In the last four years alone, This American Life produced two more seasons of Serial and Netflix produced a second season of Making a Murder, the FBI drama Mindhunter, and Conversations with a Serial Killer, a Ted Bundy docuseries. In addition to new true crime dramas, old ones are returning. Netflix is resurrecting Abducted in Plain Sight, Hulu is offering Forensic Files, and Amazon Prime is streaming Unsolved Mysteries.

Clearly, murder sells. But why is it such a hot commodity? This panel seeks to investigate this question through two lines of inquiry. First, how are murderers figured in contemporary media and culture? Mark Seltzer positions the serial killer as a celebrity figure while Richard Tithecott positions him as a troubling Other, a figure who we depict as being monstrously different than ourselves, but who nonetheless possesses shocking similarities.

Second, what are the ethics of producing and consuming murder-based media? When we read, watch, or listen to tales about murder, what is the focus? And who is the focus? Which figures stand at the foreground of the story? Which figures are pushed into the background and forgotten or erased?

The panel invites 300 word abstracts for 15-20 minute papers. The deadline for submission is September 30, 2019. Please submit your abstract via the NEMLA submission portal ( 

Applicants are not required to be NeMLA members at the time of submission but accepted speakers will have to become members by December 9, 2019.


For further information, please contact the chair of this panel, Ashley Wilcox ( Ashley Wilcox is a graduate student at Tufts University studying Victorian literature and True Crime.