Entertainment or Polemic: Writing Fiction and Creative Nonfiction in the Twenty-First Century

deadline for submissions: 
May 10, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Midwest Modern Language Association
contact email: 

The world of creative writing is torn by competing imperatives. On one hand, there’s the insistence that fiction, creative nonfiction, and storytelling are inseparable from the work of civic engagement and public discourse, as urged by a pantheon of writers including Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, James Baldwin, Robert Penn Warren, and others. On the other hand, creative writers are often urged against tethering their fiction and creative nonfiction to overt political agendas: it is on these didactic grounds that John Banville once insisted that the political sensibility that made George Orwell a deft satirist muddled his skill as a fiction writer. 

For practicing fiction writers and essayists, this raises the question of how—if at all—we engage with the controversies, concerns, and major issues of our own moment in our creative work. How do practicing creative writers balance the tension between the story and its social contexts? How do our current media environment, lived experiences, or other factors inform and inflect our approach to writing? Has widespread misinformation altered the way we approach storytelling and narrative craft? This panel invites submissions of creative presentations that focus on this question. We especially submissions of proposals from fiction and creative nonfiction writers interested in sharing from their published and/or works-in-progress, while connecting their observations about the public role of narrative writing against the backdrop of process, scholarship, research, civic engagement, activism, or more.

Papers will be considered for presentation on the Creative Writing: Prose permanent section panel at the 2023 Midwest Modern Language Association annual conference in Cincinnati, OH, from 2–5 November 2023. For consideration, submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, along with your current short bio, by email to Dr. Patrick Henry at patrick.henry@und.edu no later than 10 May 2023.