NEMLA Panel: Narratives of Literary Recovery

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Rod K. Taylor/Ball State University
contact email: 

Cary Nelson’s stance on archival work in his 1989 book Repression and Recovery applies to the intimate, frustrating, and rewarding practice of archival research’s potential to offer literary scholars the chance to rehabilitate both author and text. He states, “For texts previously ignored or belittled, our greatest appreciative act may be to give them fresh opportunities for an influential life. That discourse can include new constructions of the cultural work those texts may have done in their own time” (14). When archival research uncovers voices that showcase underrepresented voices, the outcome is tremendous in how it results in new ways of reading the past in contemporary culture. But what about historically problematic constructions? How do we recover these voices?

As literary scholars, we must not foist our interpretations and desires onto historically distant literature to fit our contemporary cultural, political, and social milieu. Thus, how can we rectify problematic constructions without rewriting the past with our own contemporary interpretation? How do we acknowledge the author's and text's problematic elements while examining how they may have contributed to larger cultural conversations or movements? Further, how should we engage with these texts critically and thoughtfully to recognize their historical context and potential influence in creating a historical narrative?

This session seeks papers that explore the difficulties and challenges of literary recovery. By examining the complexities of literary recovery, we can better understand how literature can shape and reflect cultural attitudes and values for better or worse.

NeMLA's convention will be held March 7-10, 2024 in Boston, MA. For more information, visit:

If interested, please submit a 150 to 200-word abstract to Dr. Rod Taylor and Dr. Kaitlin Tonti at and Dr. Kaitlin Tonti at by 9-30-23. For NeMLA members, you can use the NeMLA CFP list to submit an abstract.