Twain and James: Percival Everett's Rewriting of American Literary History (NeMLA March 6-9, 2025 in Philadelphia)

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Edward Whitley
contact email: 

Seeking panelists for the NeMLA convention in Philadelphia March 6-9, 2025, on Percival Everett's James (2024).

Percival Everett’s 2024 novel James is a retelling of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) from the perspective of Jim, the enslaved African American who accompanies Huck on his journey down the Mississippi River. Everett’s novel contributes to a growing body of work by African American authors who reimagine classic works of American literature, such as Stephanie Powell Watts’s recasting of The Great Gatsby (1925) with Black characters from rural North Carolina in No One is Coming to Save Us (2017), or Mat Johnson’s extension of Edgar Allan Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) with his 2011 novel Pym.

As this panel addresses Everett’s engagement with Huckleberry Finn and the legacy that surrounds it as a “Great American Novel,” it will also consider the broader issues that Everett raises regarding code-switching, historical recovery of African American voices, the canon of American literature, and others. Everett’s James provides an opportunity to rethink pedagogical approaches to teaching both nineteenth-century American literary history and the tradition of neo-slave narratives written in the past 50 years. James also invites scholars to revisit Toni Morrison’s argument in her foundational theoretical text, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992), that “Neither Huck nor Mark Twain can tolerate, in imaginative terms, Jim freed. That would blast the predilection from it mooring.”

How does Everett unmoor American literature with James? What predilections from U.S. literary history does Everett expose, and what new imaginative possibilities does he propose?

Please submit a 250-300 word abstract and 50 word bio to Edward Whitley ( by September 23, 2024.