Collaborations: Langston Hughes and Artistic Partnerships (ALA2020; San Diego, 05/21-24/2020)

deadline for submissions: 
January 3, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Langston Hughes Society

The Langston Hughes Society is pleased to invite proposals for the following panel to be held at the 2020 American Literature Association (ALA) Conference in San Diego, CA:


Throughout his career, Langston Hughes worked with other artists and groups both in print and other media. For instance, the recently reissued collaboration with photographer Roy DeCarava, The Sweet Flypaper of Life, combines DeCarava’s photographs with Hughes’s poetry to capture the everyday lives of residents in mid-twentieth-century Harlem. Sonia Wener reads this collaboration as a complex interplay of text and image in which the textual narration’s deeper “meanings are revealed through dynamic interactions with the images, where seeing the images can activate a reevaluation of the words.” Although DeCarava in interviews downplayed the interactions of the two, suggesting that Hughes  “selected pictures and put the text with it and that was it--no conferences, no problems,” he also acknowledged that “we were indeed together singing the same tune and walking down the same road” and expressed repeatedly the insights Hughes brought to the images of this successful collaboration. On the other hand, perhaps one of Hughes’s most famous, if fraught, collaborations was with Zora Neale Hurston to create the play Mule Bone, which not only ended their friendship but also demonstrated, as Lisa Boyd argues, “the conflicted aesthetics of Hurston and Hughes.” Mule Bone therefore offers a cautionary tale on the tribulations of collaboration; collaboration always involves a give and take between or among artists, and in some cases a balancing of artistic integrity with practical goals. This panel encourages panelists to consider how did Hughes approach collaborative engagements? What synergies or faults arose from the blending of artistic visions? In consideration of the topic of collaboration, the LHS panel asks participants to consider collaboration in the broad sense to include co-authorship, co-editing,  translations, performance partnerships, and engagement with organizations or individuals to promote social justice causes.


Please send proposals of no more than five hundred words to both Dr. Christopher Allen Varlack ( and Dr. Richard Hancuff ( no later than January 3, 2020. Note that presenters must be members of the Langston Hughes Society by the time of the conference in order to present. Please indicate any AV equipment needs in your E-mail. 


For more information on the Langston Hughes Society and our ongoing work, please visit our website at