MLA Special Session: Affect and Embodiment at the Margins in 20/21-c. American Literature

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
University of Wisconsin-Madison
contact email: 

This MLA Special Session panel invites papers that interrogate the affordances and stakes of mobilizing marginalized affects, or elucidating affects that move between marginalized bodies in contemporary American literature and culture. 


Lauren Berlant characterized affect as the “body’s response to the world, something you’re always catching up to.” And yet critics often overlook the role of material bodies and embodiment in the circulation and impact of affect. How can we put the questions of embodiment and materiality back into the study of affect theory? What can be gained from studying bodily affectations in marginalized lives? 


Other questions/topics to consider:

  • What approaches and methodologies can scholars adopt to study marginalized affects?

  • How can we move beyond Eurocentric categories in Affect Theory?

  • What place does the historical archive and the history of embodied/lived experiences have in the study of affect?

  • How might (or have) marginalized bodies mobilize affect for social change or material transformation?

  • How does the study of forms relate to the study of affect?

  • How should we define (or redefine) affect studies in 2022, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, global uprisings against police violence, and the ever-growing climate crisis? How have contemporary writers, artists, and activists begun this work of redefinition?


Please submit a 200-250 word abstract to Elaine Cannell ( and Weishun Lu ( by March 15th.