Surplus Cities: Urban Space within a Fluid American Canon

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast MLA Conference (Mar 7-10, 2024) in Boston
contact email: 

This roundtable invites critics and writers to rethink cities (or neighborhoods/areas within cities) that are essential to understanding “American writing,” yet still seem to remain outside or “extraneous” to discussions of “American literature.”  What historical cities, lost neighborhoods, or even ruins/necropoli are critical to enduring issues explored within American writing?  What stories seem lost within locales trimmed of their histories?  How does re-centered dialogue around these locations remap American literary production?  What trajectories or points of transit are central to discussions of “canonical texts” in the present moment?  How do these questions reframe concepts of diaspora or a “literature of the Americas?” 

Proposals for this panel could embrace a range of artistic and critical reflection on urban life, including speculative fiction, photo essay, family narrative, graphic novel, maps, deliberative/impromptu memorialization of space, film, and/or poems written in flight/transit.  Artists and writers whose work could fit within this focus include (but are certainly not limited to) Gloria Anzaldúa, Roberto Bolaño, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mike Davis, Steve Erickson, William Gibson, Sutton E. Griggs, Gish Jen, Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, Sun Ra, Muriel Rukeyser, Eileen Tabios, Jake Williams, and Charles Yu.