NeMLA 2020 Panel: Problematic Faves - Ethical Reading in the Age of Cancel Culture (Boston, March 5-8)

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


Panel: Problematic Faves - Ethical Reading in the Age of Cancel Culture

Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, Boston

March 5-8, 2020

“We need to now consider that we have elevated what we’ve inscribed as genius at the expense of the humanity and potential of people they silenced, erased, and preyed upon.”

Aditi Natasha Kini

The public has its own way of dealing with their problematic faves: we cancel some seemingly forever (Harvey Weinstein), while others we only cancel temporarily (insert cancelled celebrity of the week here). But how should academia in general, and literary scholars in particular, address their own problematic faves? To be sure, we include many problematic faves in the literary canon, in literary criticism, and within the discipline itself. Identifying problematic faves may be easy, but deciding what to do with them, as individuals and as a collective, is complicated. Do we continue to write about those who have abused their power or status? Do we still teach them? Who do we cancel and why? How do we make these decisions? What are the ethical alternatives to cancellation?

This roundtable seeks to engage with these questions in such a way that acknowledges both their importance and their complexity, without erasing either. We welcome contributions that address cancel culture and its relationship to writing about and teaching literature. Please submit proposals of up to 300 words, along with a short bio. Abstracts are due by September 30th on the NeMLA website:

Contact Hannah Clay ( and Megan Crotty ( with questions.