The Place of the Popular: Culture, Classroom, and Field (Roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Mollie Eisenberg, Princeton University / Kathryn Hendrickson, Marquette University

Please find below the information on this roundtable session for NeMLA’s 51st Annual Convention — to be held in Boston, MA on March 5-8, 2020 — abstracts and brief bios may be submitted by September 30, 2019 by the provided link. Please send any questions to Mollie Eisenberg [] and Kathryn Hendrickson [].

Professional literary study in the contemporary disciplinary sense is inextricably linked to the question of canon—it is chronologically coextensive with mass-market literature, and has historically filled the need to sort legitimate art from its pretenders, invaders, competitors, and appropriators. And yet genre fiction’s place in culture, and in academia, continues to grow. Some view academic acceptance of genre fiction as a cheap trick: as humanities fields see fewer majors and smaller enrollments, departments turn to courses on popular culture to attract more students. But genre is increasingly central in and to literary scholarship, too. The current institutional threat to the humanities coincides with a significant rethinking of the boundaries of canon, the theoretical and methodological questions of genre and its objects, and the place of popular fiction in the culture, the classroom, and the field.

The goal of this roundtable is not to propose a new institutional theory to demonstrate the value of the humanities or literary study, but to engage a conversation about the current significance and opportunities of genre in the profession, in scholarship, and in the classroom. In the context of the ongoing lament about the death of the humanities, what does genre fiction reveal about the place of literature in culture and suggest about the relationship between “legitimate” and popular culture? In what ways does bringing genre into the classroom offer space for a different kind of pedagogy than a focus on works categorized as “literary"? In what ways can we as teachers continue to expand and address the boundaries of mainstream scholarship in ways that benefit our students? How does the study of genre fiction enable explorations of counter-perspectives, new modes of readership, and institutional mission?

To apply, create or log into your free NeMLA account by either following this direct link to submit your abstract [] or by accessing the CFPs through the general convention page at



Mollie Eisenberg is a PhD candidate at Princeton University. Her interests include transatlantic modernism, twentieth-century literary and intellectual culture, the sociology of literature, the Victorian novel, book history and mass literacy, the detective novel, intertextuality, and the legibility of appearance.

Kathryn Hendrickson is a PhD candidate at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her research interests lie mainly in 20th and 21st century transatlantic literature, with a focus on detective fiction; its creation and maintenance as a genre; and how it is continually re-conceptualized and re-formed within popular culture.