“After Morrison: 21st-Century African Diasporic Cultural Production in the Wake of Toni Morrison” Special Issue CFP

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
contact email: 

Contact E-mail Address: ryan_sharp@baylor.edu


Co-Editors: Herman Beavers (University of Pennsylvania) and Ryan Sharp (Baylor University)


Submission Deadline: October 31, 2021


Much of the attention afforded to the late, great Toni Morrison rightfully focuses on her work as a novelist. However, Morrison’s service as an editor has also deeply impacted many literatures and cultures. As the first Black American woman to serve as a Senior Editor at Random House, Morrison helped raise the profile of Black American letters and amplified Black voices that otherwise may not have had the same audibility.  It is in this vein that our 2021 MLA panel sought to take up Morrison’s mantle as a champion of Black literature and culture, to celebrate Morrison through holding/ruminating in her wake. As we transition from that discussion to this special issue of Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal we aim to provide a forum to explore contemporary African diasporic cultural producers whose work has yet to receive the critical response that it merits, particularly in reference to how their work has been impacted by and/or is in conversation with Morrison’s literary, critical, and/or editorial legacy.


The issue will be simultaneously invested in both recovery and discovery work. With Morrison’s passing still very recent in the public mind, the timeliness of the topic as we continue to mourn the loss of one of the greatest American writers and thinkers cannot be gainsaid. Morrison’s greatness warrants an immense canon of scholarship and there is still more that needs be explored in her work as we continue to process it through new lenses and contexts. However, some scholars have exceptionalized Morrison in a way that has left other Black cultural producers in the relative dark. Toward this end, we are seeking articles that focus new attention—critically and methodologically—to recent African diasporic cultural producers, helping to bolster, if not jump start, scholarly responses to their work. We are particularly interested in approaches that utilize Morrison as a springboard for how to think about other artists and texts either through how they reflect Morrison’s influence or how they suggest an effort to escape Morrison’s shadow. The issue also aspires to be in dialogue with contemporary African diasporic literary and cultural discourse that has been taken up in Lovalerie King and Shirley Moody-Turner’s Contemporary African American Literature: A Living Canon (2013) and Stephanie Li’s Pan–African American Literature: Signifyin(g) Immigrants in the Twenty-First Century (2019). Further, since articles may take up new, innovative means through which to examine Morrison’s oeuvre through the work of another artist, the issue also looks to be in dialogue with current engagements with Morrison like Jan Furman’s recently revised and expanded Toni Morrison’s Fiction (2014), Valerie Smith’s Toni Morrison: Writing the Moral Imagination (2014), Juda Bennett’s Toni Morrison and the Queer Pleasure of Ghosts (2015), Anissa Janine Wardi’s Toni Morrison and the Natural World: An Ecology of Color (2021) as well as the many articles in response to her passing.

Although all essays proposals will be considered and additional proposed topics are encouraged, some possibilities include:

  • Relationships between Morrison’s work and the work of another recent Black cultural producer(s)
  • Explorations of African diasporic artists who warrant greater critical attention
  • Texts that expand upon Morrison’s themes, philosophy/ies, or spirituality/ies
  • Analyzing a trend(s) within 21st-century African diasporic cultural production through the lens of Morrison’s oeuvre and/or legacy
  • Reading current Black aesthetical or cultural trends and/or movements through Morrison
  • Evaluations of who has or will take up Morrison’s mantle as Black literary and cultural institution builder

If you are interested in contributing to this project, please submit an abstract of approximately 250-350 words and a brief CV to ryan_sharp@baylor.edu by Oct. 31, 2021. Selected authors will be notified by mid-November. Complete manuscripts of articles invited for the issue will be due by August 1, 2022 so that the confidential peer review and revision of accepted articles can be completed by mid-November 2022.