MLA2021: Provocation and “Difficulty” in Working-Class Narratives

deadline for submissions: 
March 16, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
MLA2021: Toronto, Jan 7 - 10, 2021
contact email: 

Abstracts Due by March 16 through the MLA Portal:

Seeking papers for a non-guaranteed special session on working-class writing with an emphasis on “difficulty” and provocation. This panel will think through the way visceral and/or shocking content helps delineate the contours of working-class writing. Given the genre’s volatility, the goal of this panel is to explore provocation as a motif and to consider its value in the past, the present, and the future. In what ways do working-class narratives aim to upset conventional sensibilities? What is the impact of a class-conscious text that knowingly offends? While “difficult” is highly subjective and conditioned by cultural context, this panel will center on the notion of controversy and the way challenging content augments a text’s function. Furthermore, given this year’s presidential theme of “persistence,” the question might be raised as to how provocation aids in sustaining and/or reiterating working-class cultural history(s). Topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Censorship
  • Civil Rights
  • “Respectability”
  • Intra-Class Subdivisions
  • Grit and Gritty Realism 
  • Taboos
  • Taste
  • Humor and Satire
  • Protest
  • Cultural Identity
  • Stereotypes
  • Abjection

This call is open to proposals on texts from any place and period, but texts under scrutiny should place emphasis on working-class life and/or engage theory associated with class-conscious literature. Participants selected for inclusion will be notified by March 23 and asked to confirm willingness to participate; the panel proposal will be submitted to MLA by April 1. All participants must be active MLA members no later than April 7 for the proposal to be considered. Any inquiries to