MLA 2022 CFP: Circuitous Channels: The Communications Circuit at 40

deadline for submissions: 
March 12, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Alec Pollak
contact email: 

Circuitous Channels: The Communications Circuit at 40

Robert Darnton’s “communications circuit,” proposed in his field-defining 1982 essay “What Is the History of Books?”, has become one of book history’s foundational paradigms. Since 1982, the “communications circuit” has been endlessly reprinted, debated, revised, and amended; it has become a touchstone heuristic for more articles, books, and papers than it is possible to list.

On the 40th anniversary of “What Is the History of Books?,” this panel strives to reckon with the circuit’s legacy—its impact on and relationship to the “advances in book history that occurred during the following quarter of a century” (Darnton 2007)—its present-day applications, and its potential futures. How has Darnton’s schema enabled and served the interdisciplinary fields and projects that fall under the loose rubric of “book history” and “print culture”? What “alternative routes and circuitous channels” (Murray 2004) in the life cycles of books would an updated circuit attend to? What generative tensions arise when we consider the circuit’s limits and potentials for fields that have, historically, existed in tension with “book history” as it emerged in the 1980s—feminist and Black print cultural studies, for example?

Please send abstracts of approximately 300 words in length and a brief biographical note to Alec Pollak ( by March 12th, 2021.

Please note: This is a Call for Papers for a special session at the MLA Annual Convention, January 6-9, 2022, in Washington, DC. This is a non-guaranteed session; it is contingent upon acceptance by the MLA Program Committee. Applicants will be notified within a week of March 12th, if not sooner. Prospective presenters must be members of the MLA by April 1.