American Elegy, Now

deadline for submissions: 
November 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
ALA American Poetry Symposium (Washington DC, February 20-22, 2020)
contact email: 

Call for Papers:

If the English elegy consoles through aesthetic substitution (Sacks), and the modern elegy resists consolation and persists in melancholy or rage (Ramazani), then what forms of memory and mourning avail contemporary American elegists? In American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman, Max Cavitch notes that “elegy remains a capacious, flexible, widely practiced poetic genre,” as evidenced by the work of “formalist and experimental poets” alike. What do contemporary American elegists inherit or resist from the genre’s “unbroken history in English-speaking North America,” especially as their works engage material cultures of mourning, or the complexities of race, gender, sexuality, capital, or national identity (see American Elegy for exemplary explorations of these and other social imaginaries)? In this moment of heightened division, instability, and violence, how might elegy answer—or fail—the exigencies of life and death in contemporary America?

We invite short talks on the poetry and poetics of mourning for a roundtable discussion, “American Elegy, Now,” at the 2020 ALA American Poetry Symposium. We encourage intersectional approaches, and we especially welcome talks that read American elegy in light of any of the following topics:

  • Environment: climate change; indigenous land rights; water and food chain contamination; anthropocentrism & animal studies

  • Race & Ethnicity: Native sovereignty & tribal recognition; structural racism; the New Jim Crow & the carceral state; public monuments and memorials

  • Gender & Sexuality: trans-, cis-gender, and non-binary women’s elegies; LGBTQIA+ approaches to elegy; disease, illness, mortality, and sex;  responses to the AIDS crisis

  • Disability Studies: mobility impairment; sensory impairment; chronic pain and/or illness; neurodiversity; posthumanism

  • Digital Media: memory and mourning through digital archives, social media, apps, and digital media and online fora

  • Visual Arts: painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, book art; hybrid materials and forms

  • Performance: music, dance, film, performance art 

  • Architecture: public and private memorials; funerary statues

  • Fashion: customs of dress; sentimental & mourning jewelry

  • Food: industrial agriculture;  food insecurity



Please send a 300-word abstract, a 100-word bio, curriculum vitae, and current contact information to Drs. Julie Phillips Brown ( and Giffen Mare Maupin ( no later than 1 November 2019. Accepted participants must submit complete talks (approximately 1500 words in length) by the end of January, 2020.


About the 2020 ALA Symposium on American Poetry: The Symposium will take place in Washington, DC, from February 20-22, 2020. Please note that the conference registration fee is $175 (the conference fee covers the costs of the conference, including one meal and three receptions). While ALA membership is not required to participate, all participants must register by February 2, 2020. 

For more details on the Symposium, please visit: