Writing Back to Flannery O’Connor - Flannery O’Connor Society Panel @ MELUS 2024

deadline for submissions: 
November 8, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
The Flannery O'Connor Society
contact email: 

Conference Theme: “Roots/Routes of Resistance and Resilience”

Call for Papers: “Writing Back to Flannery O’Connor”

Deadline extended to November 8th, 2023

The Flannery O’Connor Society seeks abstracts for a proposed in-person panel to be held at the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States’s (MELUS) annual conference at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas from April 11-14, 2024.

This proposed panel broadly seeks abstract that engage with Flannery O’Connor’s relationship to Black writers, Black writers’ relationships to her work, and the heated public and academic responses since 2020 to O’Connor’s legacy of race and racism—both in her fiction and correspondence, as well as in the diverse contemporary literature classroom. We are primarily interested in proposals that center authors who might not be often considered alongside O’Connor’s body of work. For example, in Hilton Als’s chapter “This Lonesome Place” in his 2013 collection of essays called White Girls, he speculates on the unrealized meeting of O’Connor and James Baldwin that O’Connor denied due to the social codes of Georgia she adhered to, likens O’Connor’s “Christ hauntings” to Baldwin’s own experience with religion and preaching, and even gestures at the similarities in Samuel L. Jackson’s final monologue in Pulp Fiction to the syntax of someone like Hazel Motes in Wise Blood. These intertextual relationships point to what Als calls the “uneasy and unavoidable union between Black and white,” and these relationships urge us to reapproach authorial influence and canonicity.

While we invite proposals that more broadly speak to O’Connor’s work and race, the following intertextual topics are areas of special interest:

  • How have Black writers “written back” to the South envisioned by O’Connor?
  • Which Black influencers on O’Connor’s writing warrant more attention?
  • How do students respond to teaching O’Connor in conversation with Black authors in the context of antiracist efforts? How do we teach O’Connor in diverse classrooms?
  • Where does O’Connor fit in the context of contemporary “bans” on “divisive” books and the teaching of Critical Race Theory?
  • How did the engagement with race and civil rights of O’Connor’s contemporaries compare or contrast with her own?
  • How do we read O’Connor alongside Black authors and artists?
  • Topics related to Irish American ethnic alterity, or white southern Catholic literature(s) in conversation with Black southern catholic literatures (including intra-southern regional conversations, such as O’Connor’s faith in Deep South and the faith of writers of color in the Gulf South)

These questions/topics also speak to a forthcoming collection of essays that has been proposed called Reckoning with Racism and Flannery O’Connor (abstract proposals for chapters in this collection will be due in January 2024). More information about this collection will be available soon!

MELUS’s 2023 conference invites submissions broadly related to their conference theme, “Roots/Routes of Resistance and Resilience.” The conference CFP invites panels and papers that speak to the understanding that: “We are called upon to resist, knowing it will require resilience on our part to keep up the struggle. Yet these routes have been charted before, and now new routes must be created to rise to the challenge of the moment. We warmly welcome submissions for papers, panels, and roundtables that explore various aspects of our conference theme, ‘Roots/Routes of Resistance and Resilience,’ from the perspectives of multiethnic literatures, broadly conceived.”  

Please send abstracts of 250 words to Dr. Rachel Bryan via email (rbryan5@vols.utk.edu) by November 8th, 2023. In your submission, please include a title, your name, institutional affiliation(s), and current email address. Participants must be members of The Flannery O’Connor Society and MELUS by the time of the conference. MELUS offers several travel awards that participants can apply to, including the Katharine Rodier Graduate Student Travel Award, the MELUS Graduate Student Travel Award, and the MELUS President’s Contingent Faculty Award. More information about MELUS and the spring conference can be found on their website (https://melus.org/conferences/), and more information about the Flannery O’Connor Society, including how to join, can be found on the Society’s website (https://www.flannerysociety.org/).