CFP: 2017 MMLA Conference – “Artists and Activists”

Call for Papers

2017 MMLA Conference – “Artists and Activists”

Call for Papers

2017 MMLA Conference

“Artists and Activists”

 November 9-12, 2017

Cincinnati, Ohio

 The Midwest Modern Language Association invites proposals for the 2017 conference in Cincinnati, Ohio on any topic, yet participants are particularly encouraged to consider this year’s theme “Artists and Activists.”  We invite individual proposals as well as proposals for complete panels.

While this year’s theme brings to mind and is meant to inspire reflection on recent events – such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the presidential election, and the selection of Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize in literature — the conference also intends to encourage literary and cultural-historical consideration and analysis of the balance of activism and art.  From the ancient philosophers to the modern commentators, literary critics have long debated the role of the artist in society.  Are writers, as Percy Bysshe Shelley insists, “the unacknowledged legislators of the world” or should they bring, as Matthew Arnold proclaims, “sweetness and light”?  These particular figurations of the poet in society, however do not necessarily account for the place that the artist has in social movements: these nineteenth century writers speak in abstractions, not quite leaving space for potentiality of the artist in social movements.

This conference will explore the ways that writers and artists across the centuries and across the globe have voiced support and opposition to social change, while others have even advocated against the notion of artistic involvement in that social change.  In our conversations, we hope to think about the place of literature and culture in the lives of all people.

Topics could include, but are by no means limited to:

The role of the writer in society; satire as social statement; the place of (liberal) arts education in contemporary society; the co-opting of art and social advocacy by dominant cultural institutions; the literature of witness; environmental literature; trans- identities and activism; alterity; ethnic identities and activism; feminism and womanism; digital literacies and shifting modes of production; disability studies; free speech and states of exception; the public intellectual; the internet and activism; facts and artistic license

We welcome papers and panels that explore these ideas beyond our contemporary moment, using the long lens of literary history to consider these ideas.


Proposals may be for:

1) Special Sessions related to the conference theme:

Special Sessions do not require a full slate of papers, but instead, if accepted, assume that the session organizer (who may also give a paper) will serve as panel chair. Accepted Special Session Calls for Papers will be posted on the MMLA website at and will require that the organizer receive proposals directly and vet them to build the full panel.

Special Session Calls for Papers should include the following information: organizer name, contact information, session title, and a Call for Papers indicating the organizer’s preferred proposal length and deadline of April 5th for proposal submissions.

Special Session Calls for Papers are due February 20th via e-mail to Individual proposals to Special Sessions are then due to their organizers April 5th.

2) Permanent Sections of the MMLA that organize panels annually:

Permanent Sections post Calls for Papers on the MMLA website at These are typically tied to some version of the conference theme. Please check the website regularly for additions to these calls and details on submitting proposals directly to the organizers.

Proposals to Permanent Sections are due to their organizers April 5th.

3) Complete Panels or Individual Papers that do not tie into the conference theme.

Complete Panel and Individual Paper submissions should include the following information: presenter name, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, paper title, and a 250-word proposal.

Proposals for Complete Panels should be submitted together as a unit.

Individual Papers that are accepted will be grouped into sessions; as a result, to facilitate scheduling please identify up to three of the following categories in which your paper may be most usefully placed:

American literature, Comparative Studies, English Literature, Francophone Literatures, Hispanophone Literatures, Genre Studies, German Literature, Interdisciplinary Approaches, Italian Literatures, Teaching, Medieval, Renaissance/Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Contemporary Literature, Colonial, Postcolonial, Travel, the Midwest.

Individual Paper and Complete Panel proposals are due April 30th via e-mail to

While the MMLA welcomes papers across languages and literatures, proposals must be in English unless submitted to a Permanent Session that stipulates proposals are welcome in languages other than English.

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Each Fall issue of the Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association will be devoted to papers that build upon the conference theme from the previous year; the Fall 2018 issue will thus extend “Artists and Activists.” Fall issue submissions are due by the preceding April 15.

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