MLA 2023: Disability and Trauma in the Life and Works of Ernest Hemingway

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
The Ernest Hemingway Society
contact email: 

The Ernest Hemingway Society

2023 Modern Language Association Convention

January 5-8, 2023

San Francisco, CA

Disability and Trauma in the Life and Works of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was an accident-prone man; from being injured in World War I, to pulling a skylight onto his head in Paris, to back-to-back plane crashes in Africa, the author was familiar with both physical and mental impairment. As Andrew Farah’s 2017 biography, Hemingway’s Brain, shows, these experiences and others in Hemingway’s life had long-term effects on the author’s writing and well-being. Farah’s work is one of the most recent biographical efforts to try to catalog, and account for, the physical and mental changes Hemingway experienced during his lifetime, but the ways the author thought about disability, impairment, and trauma, as well as incorporated them into his literature, is still a rich area for exploration.

This panel encourages investigations of these topics, particularly biographical and literary manifestations of mental and physical disability. Examinations of these identities’ connections to trauma are also welcome. As Sarah Anderson Wood articulates in The New Hemingway Studies, traumatic experiences shaped Hemingway’s life and were often linked to disability and impairment. While Wood acknowledges the importance diagnoses can play in understanding trauma, proposed papers should refrain from attempting to diagnose Hemingway or his characters. Instead, essays should examine the role(s) disability, impairment, and/or trauma play in the author’s life and literature. How, for example, might we perceive Nick Adams differently if we read him as having a mental disability? How could Hemingway’s experiences (and injuries) in World War II and thereafter have affected his writing process and the form of works such as Across the River and Into the Trees and A Moveable Feast? What role might disability play in his bullfighting stories, where both humans and animals are injured and killed? Hemingway’s literature is full of disability, from the well-known Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, to impaired bullfighters in Death in the Afternoon and The Dangerous Summer, and even disabled animals in short stories and, arguably, The Old Man and the Sea. While we have acknowledged Hemingway’s physical relationship with disability, impairment, and trauma, there is still much to be learned about the man and the concept of disability by looking to his life and literature.

Potential paper topics related to Hemingway’s life and/or work may include:

  • Mental disability and illness
  • Physical disability (temporary or permanent)
  • Impairment vs. disability
  • The relationship between disability and trauma
  • The ways disability intersects with other identities (race, gender, sexuality, etc.)
  • How disability and/or trauma affected Hemingway’s writing form and/or literary production
  • Differences in the portrayals and/or perceptions of invisible and visible disabilities
  • Contextual stigmas surrounding disability

Please direct your 300-word proposal and a short professional bio to Katie A. Warczak ( The deadline for proposals is March 1. Papers are generally limited to 15 minutes.

Additional details about the MLA Conference may be found online at:

For more information about the Ernest Hemingway Society, please visit the Society’s website at: