MLA 2021 Toronto: Laughter & Feminist Critical Thought

deadline for submissions: 
March 27, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Maggie Hennefeld / University of Minnesota
contact email: 

Feminist theory has always enjoyed a productive but uneasy relationship with laughter. What are the limits and potentials of laughing paradigms for the future of feminist critical thought?


Topics May Include (but are not limited to):

  • Feminist theories of the carnivalesque, Medusan laughter, unruly women
  • Affirmations of the “feminist killjoy” and intersectional politics of laughter and social power
  • Race/ethnicity—laughter & black feminist theory, from histories of blackface minstrelsy + archives of slavery to present day social movements
  • Marxist/materialist feminisms—critiques of the neoliberal happiness industry, e.g. via concepts of zaniness, cruel optimism, and the injunction to enjoyment
  • The status of pleasure (and its relation to laughter) in the history of feminist thought and/or feminist experimental performance
  • The place of humor/laughter/joy in feminist affect theory
  • Semiotic-psychoanalytic approaches (critiques of sexist/tendentious jokes, theorizations of abject laughter, libidinal politics of irony, etc.)
  • Feminist comedy studies (with its particular focus on popular culture, TV, and stand-up) and its relation to other interdisciplinary fields and debates in feminist studies
  • Non-Western laughter as it concerns issues of translation, adaptation, migration, diaspora, refugee politics, state violence, sovereignty, environmental catastrophe

**We encourage applicants to this panel to think promiscuously about the dialectic between critical thought and feminist laughter!**

Call for Papers for a panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, January 7-10, 2021 in Toronto. Please send 250-word abstracts and bios by March 27, 2020 to Maggie Hennefeld (  Responses to individual submissions will be sent out by late March. All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by no later than April 2020.