Transgressive Fiction Today

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Rebecca Warshofsky / Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

In the 1990s, transgressive fiction authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, and Irvine Welsh shocked, disgusted, and offended audiences with their depictions of terrorizing, murdering, and drug-abusing characters whose bad behavior rejected and subverted the Western hegemony of neoliberalism. But their behavior was only seen as “shocking” or “transgressive” because of its blatant opposition to the dominant paradigm. What does it mean to transgress norms, boundaries, and conventions in today’s post-9/11 world, when the paradigms of whiteness, masculinity, heteronormativity, etc. are not necessarily viewed as the ultimate gatekeepers of what is normal, standard, correct, or expected? What does it mean to be transgressive for the non-white, non-male, non-heteronormative authors of transgressive fiction today, whose very existence is necessarily transgressive when viewed from within the confines of a system whose rules were never meant to apply to them?

Authors such as Poppy Z. Brite, Kola Boof, Akwaeke Emezi, Sarah Hall, Carmen Maria Machado, Ottessah Moshfegh, Alissa Nutting, and others, tell tales of sex, drugs, violence, abuse, freedom, persecution, incest, abortion, hebephilia, cannibalism, suicide, etc. from the perspectives of victims and perpetrators alike. What paradigms are they transgressing, what narratives do they disrupt or reclaim, what cliches do they resist or explode, and what meanings or identities might they thereby create? This panel welcomes papers that use the work of these and other authors to criticize, theorize, and otherwise engage with questions such as: How does transgressive fiction explore questions of gender, sex, sexuality, race, class, ability, or conformity from outside social, moral, and legal boundaries? How can marginalized voices make themselves heard through acts of transgression? How do the characters in these works blur the lines between what is possible/impossible, acceptable/unacceptable, thinkable/unthinkable? What do these authors’ perspectives reveal about how the norms, rules, conventions, and morals of a society apply to those who always-already exist outside the hegemonic paradigm?


Please submit an abstract of no more than 350 words by September 30, 2022, to

If accepted, you will have 15-20 minutes to present your paper at the panel at the Northeast Modern Language Association conference in Niagara Falls, NY on March 23-26, 2023.