From a Paradise-only State to the Quotidian: Untangling 'Plenty' from 'Surplus'

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

In capitalism’s surplus economy, to “have plenty” frequently appears to have no bounds. The pursuit for plenty at times indistinguishable from the insatiable appetite for excess, it takes on the (ut)optics of capitalism. To have plenty becomes synonymous with the surplus and excess only available to those who wield the most power, hoard the greatest wealth.

“Plenty,” writes Tony Morrison, “in a world of excess and attending greed, which tilts resources to the rich and forces others to envy, is an almost obscene feature of contemporary paradise. This world of outrageous, shameless wealth squatting, hulking, preening before the dispossessed, the very idea of ‘plenty’ as Utopian ought to make us tremble” (xiv).

A framework of oppression illuminates the unjust–even deadly–consequences of plenty’s conflation with surplus and excess. But what if we go beyond that perspective and consider "surplus" within a framework of resistance and liberation? “Plenty,” Morrison continues, “should not be understood as a paradise-only state, but as normal, every day human life" ( xiv).

This panel seeks papers that engage directly or indirectly with Morrison’s quote and the concepts of surplus, excess, and plenty through a framework of resistance and liberation. What does it look like, for example, when historically marginalized groups resist capitalism's paradise of surplus and excess? How have they written about, envisioned, and enacted fullness and "plenty[...]as normal and every day human life?" Successful proposals will attend to these questions as well as their intersections with women and gender studies. Creative works welcome!