The Kurt Vonnegut Society at the ALA 2021

deadline for submissions: 
February 20, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Kurt Vonnegut Society

Please come join us at the American Literature Association Conference in Boston, MA, from July 7-11, 2021 where the Kurt Vonnegut Society will hold two academic sessions and host a business meeting. The ALA has made accommodations for distant-presentation, so we welcome those who may only appear digitally.

Here’s the Call for Papers.  Proposals are due by February 1, 2021.  Since the ALA has pushed the conference back to July, we have extended the deadline for proposals to February 20, 2021.

Panel 1:  Vonnegut and Religion

Perhaps the most well-known and well-discussed foray into religion in Kurt Vonnegut’s corpus is Bokononism in Cat’s Cradle. However, throughout Vonnegut’s novels, there are multiple and various engagements with ethics and morality, the so-called spiritual, the sacred, and the otherworldly. In Sirens of Titan, for example, readers encounter The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, and in Slapstick, audiences are exposed to The Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped. Slaughterhouse Five famously introduces readers to Tralfamadorianism and offers the religious wisdom that Christianity teaches not to kill folks who are “well connected” and presents an alternative version of the gospel in which God “will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections.” Breakfast of Champions begins with an epigraph from the Book of Job, positions the narrator as Creator of the Universe, and explicitly deems Armistice Day, Romeo and Juliet, all music, and human awareness as sacred things. In Timequake, a humanist is defined as one who tries “to behave decently and honorably without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife,” a statement which arguably situates humanism as a kind of religion.

This panel seeks presentations that address the role of religion, spirituality, morality, or other codes of ethics in Vonnegut’s fiction. Questions to consider might include:

  • How do Vonnegut’s novels and/or short stories engage with organized religions, and to what effect?
  • How can we reconcile fiction that points readers toward new forms of spiritual and sacred codes while apparently criticizing the same?
  • How does Vonnegut’s fiction address military or criminal justice ethics alongside codes of organized religion(s)?

We also welcome other creative approaches to the topic: Vonnegut and Religion.

Please send 250-300 word abstracts to with the subject line “ALA: Vonnegut and Religion” by February 20, 2021.

Roundtable:  Whither Vonnegut Scholarship?

This roundtable will consider past, current, and future trajectories for Vonnegut scholarship. Presentations will be 4-8 minutes (depending on the number of participants). These brief statements on the current state of Vonnegut studies will serve as a stepping-off point for further discussion. Though any angle will be considered, topics of particular interest could include:

  • Vonnegut and film
  • Vonnegut and truth/post-truth
  • Reconsiderations of established opinion on specific texts
  • Vonnegut’s theatrical works
  • Vonnegut and his collaborators
  • Newly uncovered historical contexts
  • Vonnegut and social change after 2007
  • Depression, anxiety, and mental health in his works
  • Vonnegut’s visual art
  • Provocative pairings of texts for pedagogical purposes
  • Sensitive readings of problematic scenes

We welcome lively proposals of 100-150 words, sent to with the subject line “ALA Roundtable” by February 20, 2021.