Identity Remains (NeMLA 2023 Roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Jess Shollenberger (Bryn Mawr College)
contact email: 

[abstract deadline extended]

54th NeMLA Annual Convention, March 23-26, 2023, in Niagara Falls, New York

This panel seeks to analyze the remnants of identity in literature and theory in the wake of the post-structuralist and queer critique of the subject as a regulatory fiction. How has identity endured in the aesthetic realm (fiction, poetry, film, etc.) even as queer theory advanced a strong critique of normalization as the process of producing legible subjects for the state? According to David Eng, Jack Halberstam, and José Esteban Muñoz, in “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now?” (2005), the “political promise” of “queer” derives precisely from its critique of social identities, which they refer to as “social antagonisms” (race, gender, class, nationality, religion, and sexuality, among others). If identity is an alienating, antagonizing force, then how has literature allowed us to make sense of the desire for identity itself and for particular identities, especially those deemed backward, minor, normative, spoiled, or useless? To what forms beyond the subject does identity adhere, including forms for being illegible, too much, or not enough? How do we theorize desire for identity itself? How has late twentieth-century literature pursued and/or resisted severing queerness from the subject and from sexual identity? Is sexuality no longer an experience amenable to categorization? Is the protagonist of Jackie Ess’s 2021 novel Darryl, for example, gay, queer, trans, or none of the above?

I welcome papers that describe and track identity’s persistence in queer writing, broadly conceived, from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Email Jess ( with any questions. 

Submit abstracts of 250-500 words by October 15, 2022 here: