Deadline Extended to April 30: Animals in Literature and Film CFP (MMLA; November 5–8, 2020; Milwaukee, WI)

deadline for submissions: 
April 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Midwest Modern Language Association
contact email: 


Call for Papers: “Animals in Literature and Film” (Permanent Panel) 

Midwest Modern Languages Association 

November 5–8, 2020 in Milwaukee, WI 

“Ecological Communities: Animal Neighbors in Literature and Film” 

This year’s “Animals in Literature and Film” panel at the Midwest Modern Language Association’s annual meeting (November 5–8, 2020 in Milwaukee, WI) invites papers engaging the conference’s theme of “Cultures of Collectivity,” specifically how works of literature or film cultivate or impair ecological communities, broadly defined. 

Animals are, as Terry O’Connor writes, “central to our individual and collective lives” (2013). We live in community with pets or livestock and rely on their bodies for food and clothing, medicine and supplies. At the same time, we reshape the landscape to better suit our own needs over the needs of others, creating borders which delineate the human from the non-human, the civilized from the wild. These artificial boundaries work against our ecological communities by suggesting that species cannot—and should not—live alongside each other. When we cross these boundaries and meet animals face-to-face, Donna Haraway argues, there are no guaranteed outcomes: “There is no assured happy or unhappy ending—socially, ecologically, or scientifically. There is only the chance for getting on together with some grace” (2007). 

The struggle to achieve this “grace” in reality shapes how we imagine ecological community building in the abstract. Why do we invite certain animals into our communities but exclude others? What happens when begin to think of animals as our neighbors, fully included within our collective existence rather than apart from it? This panel will examine these questions and others throughout history in literature and film. Potential topics include but are not limited to: 

  • Companion animals, pets, and the status of animals in the family unit 
  • Farming communities and animal fables in children’s literature and film 
  • Animal soldiers (War Horse) or animal uprisings (Animal Farm, Planet of the Apes
  • Limits of or possibilities for human–animal communication and collaboration 
  • Works which complicate ideas of human exceptionalism 
  • Climate change or the loss of community through ecological devastation (Bambi, Fern Gully
  • Animal familiars in occult communities, animal neighbors in marginalized communities 
  • The ethics of zoos and aquariums (animals in captivity) and conservation theory

We invite 15-minute papers from all fields which engage this topic from a literary, cinematic, or art historical angle both in our own cultural moment and beyond it. While we welcome submissions that engage in all languages and literatures, please plan to deliver your paper in English. 

Abstracts of no more than 300 words (excluding bibliography) should be sent to Margaret Day Elsner ( by April 30th. Please include your name, institutional affiliation (if any), the title of your paper, and any special audio-visual needs in the body of your email. Accepted panelists will be notified by mid-May.