NeMLA 2024 Panel: Literary Technique and Relations of Production

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Colin Vanderburg and Guilherme Meyer, New York University
contact email: 

“Rather than…‘What is the attitude of a work to the relations of production of its time?’ I would like to ask, ‘What is its position in them?’” Ninety years on, Walter Benjamin's question in “The Author as Producer” (1934) still poses a central challenge for literary studies. For Benjamin, the key idea for locating this structural “function [of] the work” is “literary technique,” a “concept…[by] which the unfruitful antithesis of form and content can be surpassed.”

We invite paper proposals on the connection(s) between any text’s “technique” and its position within its historical relations of production—of various forms of surplus, of literature, and/or of social difference. Motivating questions might include:

  • How can the “antithesis of form and content” be “surpassed” in materialist critique?
  • What is the relation between literary technique and productive technologies?
  • How do different conceptions of labor and capital—variously imagined as a relation, process, or system—inform our understanding of the work (in all senses) of writing?
  • Are authors producers, and if so, how does their production resemble or differ from capitalist productive processes more generally?
  • And what about works in pre- or non-capitalist societies?

We especially welcome contributions on texts by authors from outside core capitalist countries and/or traditional Euro-American literary canons.

This panel is part of the 55th Annual Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), to be held in Boston, MA, March 7–10, 2024. All abstracts should be submitted through the NeMLA online portal by September 30, 2023 (account required):

Please send any questions to Colin Vanderburg ( or Guilherme Meyer (