Thieving the Past: Integrating History into Creative Work

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast MLA 2021
contact email: 

This creative session will explore the craft of creating historically informed works of fiction, poetry, digital arts, and other media. Creative writers regularly draw from the past to deepen context, to expand possibilities for material and subject matter, and to potentially illuminate connections between past and present. However, the technical process of integrating historical elements creates many challenges. This session will ask creative writers to share methods they’ve developed to make the past resonate, to energize and pattern historical detail, to maintain an authentic voice, and to make contemporary readers emotionally invest in their material.

Significantly, we will also consider the important question, what responsibilities do writers have to perceived historical facts or “truths”? As we develop new work that re-envisions past events or ideas and create possibilities for broadening our understanding of history from a wider variety of voices and perspectives, what liberties can or should contemporary writers take? What elements must remain? Participants will read from their own work, discuss their creative and research process, and engage in a brief craft discussion of the historically-driven novel Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, the NeMLA 2021 keynote speaker and the focus of this year’s "NeMLA Reads Together.”

To submit, please upload a proposal here:

The NeMLA 52 Annual conference will take place March 11-14 in Philadelphia, PA. The conference may be online or partially online. 

Jennifer Sears, Chair

New York City College of Technology, CUNY