MLA Just-in-Time Session: Covid-19 and Early Modern Protest

deadline for submissions: 
July 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Nikki Roulo/University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
contact email: 

On April 30th, 2020, protesters flocked into Lansing, MI, to contest stay-at-home orders that slowed the spread of Covid-19. A number of the crowd carried assault rifles, Confederate flags, swastikas and nooses. Such displays of racism and violence prompt a questioning of the “right to protest” and “allowed” voice, especially when such displays harm people.

The question of rights to an “allowed” voice and the intersections of protest and racial violence in pandemics can be traced throughout early modern literature and culture. For instance, shortly after an outbreak of plague in England, James I authorized the Ulster plantation in Ireland. Printed mass protests criticizing theater closures, election results, religion, freedom of the press, and censorship occurred throughout the “plague years.” Moreover, the language of disease describes oppositional demands and ideas. In his advice to the king, Thomas More uses the language of contagion to address protesting ideas, which could infect the populous.

This panel will ask: in what ways do pandemics as a framework help us rethink “protests” in early modern literature? How does the convergence of pandemic and protest affect “allowed voice?” This session invites papers that explore the convergence of the intersections of early modern protest, plague, and “allowed” voice. Topics include but are not limited to:
• Contagion and Religion 
• Voice and Censorship
• Protest and Performance

Panelists must be MLA members by Sept. 9th, 2020. Please submit abstracts (of 250 words) by July 1st to Nikki Roulo: