CFP for the First Collection of Critical Essays on David Markson

deadline for submissions: 
August 1, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Tiffany L. Fajardo and Tim Conley
contact email: 

Experimental fiction owes an unacknowledged debt to David Markson. A pioneer in the modernist tradition of James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Malcolm Lowry, Markson is generally grouped with renowned postmodernists such as John Barth and William Gaddis. Credited with the creation of his own genre, Markson’s later novels employ a highly idiosyncratic method of combining biographical and historical material to accrete a narrative that is often devoid of traditional characters or plot. While the early novels (which he deemed “Entertainments”) demonstrate a mastery of conventional forms including the Western and pulp noir, the innovations of his later novels have attracted a small but devoted following who have proselytized for a wider readership. However, although this following includes accomplished contemporaries such as Amy Hempel, Ann Beattie, and David Foster Wallace--Markson’s most fervent supporter who revived interest in the groundbreaking Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988)--his fiction has remained obscure and largely unacknowledged in academic circles. As such, this call for papers seeks contributors for the first critical collection to explore Markson’s oeuvre, seeking scholars and theorists to reevaluate his work in light of current theoretical, cultural, and aesthetic debates. The Editors welcome a variety of critical approaches and methodologies including postcolonial, sex and gender studies, speculative fiction, critical race theory, and ecocritical, among many others.

While Wallace’s “Empty Plenum” essay (1990) introduced a new audience to Markson’s fiction and helped to bolster Markson’s reputation as a “writer’s writer,” as some readers of Wallace have noted, this effort may reveal more about Wallace than the work it purports to examine. Despite Wallace’s advocacy, Markson has languished in the libraries of a select generation of writers for whom his work was of unquestionable and paramount influence. This proposed volume therefore aims to investigate not only Markson’s work, but the relationship between Markson’s covert influence and experimental fiction today. Given the centrality of Wittgenstein’s Mistress to most of Markson criticism to this point, we are especially interested in essays that focus on his other works. To express interest in contributing an article, please submit an abstract of 250-500 words to Dr. Tim Conley ( and Tiffany Fajardo ( by August 1, 2021.