Post-Soul Humor MLA Panel

deadline for submissions: 
February 28, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Jasleen Singh and Alex C. Valin

This panel invites researchers to consider how African American writers deploy humor within what critics have termed the “post-soul,” “post-Black,” “Black post-Blackness,” and “New Black Aesthetic” movements. Derek C. Maus, in Post-Soul Satire (2014), notes that the propensity for Black satirists to turn their critiques inward at the Black community rather than outwardly toward white institutions marks a key shift from ‘soul’ to ‘post-soul’ aesthetics. “Post-soul satirists reject,” Maus writes, “the notion that airing house business is synonymous with being a ‘race traitor.’” Inflections of Maus and this widely accepted interpretation of post-soul echo throughout Black literary works including Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (2015), Percival Everett’s Erasure (2001), Fran Ross’s Oreo (1974), James D. Corrothers’s The Black Cat Club (1902), and William Wells Brown’s The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom (1858).

How then do Black humorists create and work within the limits of post-soul aesthetics? When does the post-soul era ‘begin’ if we can detect traces of such humor and thought in nineteenth-century African American writing? What can we learn from comedic Black works in which social critique seems deferred or almost incidental? How do Black humorists theorize on anti-Black racism and Black figurative language use through the time-saving mechanism of humor? Given the predominance of post-soul writing contributed by Black men in studies of humor and satire, how do we address issues of misogyny and representations of gender in post-soul humor, keeping in mind Fran Ross’s rejoinder to NBC executives in her article “Richard Pryor, Richard Pryor”: “I write funny, not female.”

To appreciate the variety within African American humor, we welcome papers on any facet of post-soul humor, including satire, irony, absurdity, and parody. Papers examining literature, film, TV, stand-up comedy, music, and visual art are equally welcome. 

In his oft-cited essay, “Theorizing the Post-Soul Aesthetic” (2007), Bertram D. Ashe suggests that “we have reached the end of the beginning of this post-soul aesthetic.” We invite presenters to contemplate the relevance and continuity of post-soul aesthetics in our contemporary moment, questioning whether we are currently approaching the so-called ‘beginning of the end,’ or whether the very ‘beginnings’ of post-soul ought to be reevaluated entirely. 

Please email an abstract of approximately 300 words and a short bio to Jasleen Singh ( and Alex C. Valin ( by 28 February 2024.