Excess in the Works of Ann Petry and Richard Wright (NeMLA 2024)

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

In keeping with NeMLA's theme on “Surplus,” this roundtable will interrogate the works of Richard Wright and Ann Petry and how they have been interpreted as “excessive.”   It seeks to examine how their work has been understood as excessively: masculine, feminist, violent, Communist, leftist, assimilationist, naturalist, realist, etc.  This roundtable seeks to look at two major African American authors of the twentieth century whose boundary pushing were seen as "excessive."


Expanding on the NeMLA’s theme of “Surplus,” this roundtable will interrogate Richard Wright and Ann Petry as writers whose works were in some way considered “excessive."  Separately and simultaneously, their works have been called too masculine, black feminist, violent, Communist, leftist, or assimilationist.  As separate bodies of work and work with similar themes, Wright and Petry’s fiction can be considered “excessive” either in the portrayal of their characters personalities or actions or in the way they employ literary tropes and themes in their plot.  This roundtable will examine interpretations of Wright and/or Petry’s representations of anger, fear, passion, desire, sadness, despair, or happiness and how they are understood as excessive (or a surplus of these emotions) when expressed by their characters.  It also seeks work related to new interpretations of Wright and/or Petry’s work that challenge these understandings.  Additional questions include but are not limited to:  How are their works interpreted as an excessive use of thematic tropes? How are Petry and Wright seen as going too far in their excessive portrayals of violence?  Can their works be considered excessive without understanding the oppression Wright and Petry were attempting to challenge?


Submit your abstracts directly to NeMLA's portal found here, https://cfplist.com/nemla/User/SubmitAbstract/20541. (It should take you directly to this panel but please feel free to email if there are any issues.)