Is Language Limited?

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
2022 Northeast MLA Convention, Baltimore MD
contact email: 


"I, too, having lost faith / in language, have placed my faith in language" (Terrance Hayes, "Snow for Wallace Stevens")

As Terrance Hayes exemplifies in his portrayal of Wallace Stevens’ racism, language underpins both care-full and care-less representations. As an interdependent system that necessarily implicates and involves us all, language demands our thoughtful investigation when it comes to how we might communicate care.

The contested, circuitous and perhaps even claustrophobic experience of language has been used to confine us within harmful ideologies as well as to liberate us from the very same. For experiences that have been elided from dominant discourses – such as abortion – as well as emotions that seem to refuse expression altogether – such as grief – literature has in some cases perpetuated silences and in others punctured them.

This panel seeks to examine those cases, and to learn from them. How have twentieth-century authors and texts reckoned with the limits of language? Do we see them defy those limits? Make peace with those limits? Do these approaches vary based on their source, whether it’s an inherent insufficiency or an imposed one? If language is limited by outside forces, like social taboos or official censors, how do authors and texts work around those limits? And what implications does such work have on the way we understand language itself? Is language even limited, or are we limited in our imaginations?

Topics might include:

Experiences of Gender/Race/Class/Ability
Institutional Violence/Mass Atrocities

Abstracts due 10/15/2021 at