NEMLA 2021: Plague Writing: Rethinking the Canon

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Josh Dawson SUNY Buffalo
contact email: 

The sudden arrival of COVID-19 and its profound impact on nearly all aspects of daily life for people across the globe will undoubtedly produce a substantive re-examination of the canon of ‘plague writing’ that has, historically, been dominated by European voices. While the predominant influence of European authors in the genre of plague writing can, to a certain extent, be explained historically by the Black Death being the most deadly pandemic in human history, more recent and more global pandemics provide the opportunity to re-examine the situation of these canonical texts and to consider the stakes of plague writing on a broader international stage. More specifically, addressing the status of the plague writing canon provides an opportunity to reflect upon the social and economic inequalities that pervade quotidian life, but which because highly visible and exacerbated in moments of crisis and emergency.

This panel is specifically interested in papers which look to broaden existing understandings of what qualifies as plague writing and the function that such writings perform within literary canons. Research which addresses the aforementioned canonical works of plague writing such as Boccaccio’s The Decameron, Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, and Camus’s The Plague are welcome, and essays that take a more broad cross-cultural approach to questions of plague writing as especially encouraged to submit.


    Please submit abstracts of 200-300 words at by September 30th 2020 to be considered for the panel. Questions and concerns can be sent to