“With a Pen in Her Hand”: Communities in Gloria Naylor’s Fiction and her Archives

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Michelle Loris/ Sacred Heart University

“With a Pen in Her Hand”: Communities in Gloria Naylor’s Fiction and her Archives.

Conference dates: Thursday, October 19- Friday, October 20, 2023, held in-person at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, 06825

Gloria Naylor is one of the most important writers of 20th century American literature. Her literary works, from The Women of Brewster Place (1982), a NationalBook Award winning novel, to her fictional memoir, 1996, portray the communities that Black women build to resist, survive, and even thrive against the racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia that confines and violates them.

In 2009, Gloria Naylor donated her archives to Sacred Heart University. In 2018, Lehigh University borrowed those archives to digitize them and to make them available to a wide community of scholars, teachers, and fans of Naylor. In the Spring of 2023, the archives will be returned to Sacred Heart University to continue to make them available to a wide community of scholars and teachers, including high school educators and the general public.

To celebrate the return of the archives to Sacred Heart University and to ensure Naylor’s vision for wide collaborations and creative uses of the archive and her fiction, Sacred Heart University is hosting a conference that will focus on the many kinds of communities created in and by Naylor’s oeuvre. We invite proposals for papers and panels that explore the range of communities depicted in Naylor’s fiction and/or that are created by the collaborations represented in the archive. For example, papers might examine communities at the intersections of gender, race and class observed in the middle-class community in Linden Hills, or among the Black women in The Women of Brewster Place, or in the transnational migration in Bailey’s Café or by the indigenous knowledge in Mama Day, or the community of women created Naylor’s unpublished work, Sapphira Wade to her novel, Mama Day, or observed in the voluminous communications and correspondences between Naylor and an extensive community of writers, artists, intellectuals and activists, who, like Naylor, wrote at the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexual difference.

This conference will feature keynote speaker, Dr. Maxine Lavon Montgomery, as well as Dr. Suzanne Edwards and Dr. Mary Foltz, who will speak about the Gloria Naylor Archive, and scholar, Dr. Jennifer Williams. The conference will also highlight an Exhibit, on loan from Lehigh, featuring photographs and papers from the archives.

We seek proposals for papers or panels that explore, widely or narrowly, the communities created at the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexual difference represented in and by Naylor’s fiction, and through her archives.

Please send proposal abstracts of 250-300 words to

 SHU-GloriaNaylorConference@sacredheart.edu no later than May 15, 2023.