Book Burning/Book Banning - Roundtable for NeMLA 2024
The Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Convention will be held in Boston March 7-10 2024.
"The people in those books never lived!" It's an ironic observation from Captain Beatty, which he uses to justify the burning of books in Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel turned seventy years old in 2023, yet many of the thematic elements persist today. While books are not being burned (at least not yet), book banning has certainly surged over the past few years. Indeed, the heated political climate in the United States has called for many books to be pulled from K-12 curricula, books that are oftentimes by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ folks.
This is all part of a larger trend toward anti-intellectualism in the United States. In 2023 alone, Florida banned the first Advanced Placement African American Studies course from being taught in its schools, while many scholars raised the alarm about the precarious state of English Departments across the country. If Fahrenheit 451 (which itself has been banned before) depicts a world where "books are banned and colleges are closed due to lack of students," some might argue that today, we are closer to the society Bradbury depicts than we have ever been.
This roundtable seeks papers about the broad topic of book banning in the United States. Topics can include, but are not limited to:
The importance of Fahrenheit 451, seventy years after publication
Books that have been banned throughout history and books banned today
The "crisis" in the Humanities, especially declining English departments
Specific writers who find themselves on banned lists
How to teach banned books
Anti-intellectualism as the impetus for banning books and curricula
The ways in which faculty, departments, and institutions can resist legislation to preserve academic freedom
How to provide psychological safety for people from marginalized backgrounds for whom these books/ideas create visibility