CFP, MELUS Special Issue: “Black Women’s Literature: Violence & the COVID-19 Moment”

A Special Issue of MELUS – Call for Papers
Black Women’s Literature: Violence & the COVID-19 Moment

Guest Editors: Robin Brooks (University of Pittsburgh) and Meina Yates-Richard (Emory University)

Deadline for Abstract Submissions: July 31, 2020

With news stories such as “Two Crises Convulse a Nation: A Pandemic and Police Violence” and “‘Pandemic Within a Pandemic,” US media headlines boldly announce that the nation is in the midst of two colliding catastrophes. This special issue centers the engagement and interconnection of black women’s literary studies with police/extrajudicial violence and matters highlighted by COVID-19, particularly questions related to reasons why the disease has disproportionately impacted black lives such as disparities in employment/work, income, healthcare, education, and housing. More specifically, this issue concentrates on the work of three renowned writers, Paule Marshall, Toni Morrison, and Ntozake Shange, which collectively spans over fifty years and embraces the diversity of black lives. In the aftermath of the passing of these three writers in October 2018 (Shange) and August 2019 (Morrison and Marshall), a collective reappraisal of their oeuvres, which include canonical works such as Brown Girl, Brownstones, Praisesong for the Widow, The Fisher King, Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and For Colored Girls, is both timely and a fitting tribute. Approximately five months after Marshall’s homegoing (the most recent loss), COVID-19 embarked on the shores of the United States, and black lives continue to be negatively impacted by the disease and all of the dis-ease it manufactures. Coupled with this new reality is the ongoing legacy of anti-black racism that too often plays a role in police and extrajudicial killings of people of African descent.

With both universal and culturally specific themes, the work of these writers—including their novels, short stories, plays, poetry, essays, lectures, and other nonfiction—remains significant even in this moment that has outlived them as it connects to contemporary debates relevant to our lives. In essence, this special issue explores the overarching question: how does the work of Marshall, Morrison, and Shange speak to contemporary affairs and concerns? Scholars have anthologized and lauded these writers’ work for its contributions to the fields of African American, American, and Caribbean literary studies as well as Africana studies and women’s studies. Researchers also have considered postmodernism, black feminism, postcolonialism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and critical race theory to analyze their work.

For this special issue, we seek essays that theorize the writers’ work in relation but not limited to: 

  • Various modes of violence (broadly defined)
  • Anti-Blackness with regard to COVID-19 or police/extrajudicial violence
  • Investigations of structural/systemic racism, human rights, and social justice matters
  • The US legal system and ideologies around criminality, incarceration, and punishment
  • Representations of class and income inequalities
  • Portrayals of work and/or labor
  • Delineations of death/mortality, health (broadly defined), and abuse (broadly defined)
  • Depictions of generational differences, childhood, and aging/elderhood
  • Ideas around education, disabilities, housing, environmentalism, and philanthropy
  • Considerations of relationships (e.g., family, romantic, friendships), parenting, and foster care
  • Assessments of intraracial and interethnic relations, immigration, and globalization
  • Presentations of gender and sexuality
  • Examinations of folklore, religion/spirituality, music and performance
  • Relevant topics in the children’s literature by these writers

A comparative focus among the writers is also encouraged. Essays do not need to address both COVID-19 and police/extrajudicial violence. Essay submissions will be due later in the year with an anticipated publication date in 2021. They must be 7,000 to 10,000 words (including notes and works cited). All submissions will go through MELUS’s normal refereeing process, and papers under consideration at other journals or published in any form will not be considered. Please submit 250- to 300-word abstracts (and any inquiries) by July 31, 2020 to


MELUS 2020 Call for Papers

Join us for the 34th  Annual MELUS Conference in New Orleans

Conference Theme: “Awakenings and Reckonings: Multiethnic Literature and Effecting Change–Past, Present and Future”

Dates: April 2-5, 2020

Keynote Speakers: Kiese Laymon and Monique Truong

Conference website

Hosted by the University of New Orleans

Conference Hotel: Le Meridien New Orleans

Deadline for Abstracts: November 1st, 2019.

MELUS 2020 takes its theme’s inspiration from the 2016 novel In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, in which Christina Sharpe draws on the various meanings of “wake” to consider Black experience in the US. She invokes the watery wake that followed the slave ship, the ritual of the funeral wake, and a state of consciousness, wakefulness, or “wokeness” that signals awareness about new and enduring legacies of injustice.
New Orleans is an apt site for considering how multiethnic literatures have been in dynamic relation to various wakes. Ships, burials, mournings, and hauntings have long defined the experiences of and stories told by New Orleanians and those who have passed through the city. A port city that served as 19th-century America’s largest trading center of enslaved Africans and African Americans, New Orleans saw one of the most important and overlooked rebellions led by enslaved people in the U.S. The long wake of slavery created dramatic race and class disparities. The wake of the failure of the federal levee system, which caused the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina, continues to be visible 14 years later.
The conference theme also alludes to Kate Chopin’s classic New Orleans novel, The Awakening, which challenged gender and sexual norms of the late 19th century. Chopin is part of a robust genealogy of writers who have told–and continue to tell– stories of shifting consciousness, social change, and painful reckonings set in and around the South. As such, we aim to highlight and discuss how literature has responded to and effected change in the past, present, and in imagined and manifested futures. New Orleans been a key site for moments or processes of personal and collective awakenings. For many, Katrina was an important moment of awakening or renewed consciousness about the adaptation of past structures of exploitation and disposability for a new era.
New Orleans’ diverse communities also provide considerable opportunities for examining how immigrant groups and their literatures have effected and continue to effect change. The city’s port was the second largest point of entry for immigrants to the U.S. in the 19th century, among them German, Irish, Italian and Sicilian, and Haitian immigrants after the 1809 revolution. More recently, Vietnamese and Latin American immigrants have also helped to shape the city. Their voices join others in moments of awakenings and reckonings.
We welcome proposals for individual papers, panels, and roundtables, as well as creative writing and pedagogical discussions, on the broad spectrum of underground histories in multi-ethnic literature, culture, and performance including, but not limited to:
  • Representations of wakes, wakefulness, and awakenings;
  • Representations of reckoning with the past;
  • Shifts in consciousness;
  • Reckoning with the South’s Confederate Past;
  • Literature and public memory/monuments;
  • Representations of ports, shipping, and circulation;
  • Representations of funerals, wakes, and burials;
  • And any other topics related to multi-ethnic literature and change.
Submit a 200-word abstract, along with name, position, and affiliation, by November 1st, 2019, to
The MELUS 2020 conference website will be available later this summer. In the meantime, if you have questions about the conference, you may email Kim Martin Long at

MELUS Call for Papers, The 2019 American Literature Association Conference (ALA)

Panel Topic: “‘Writing’ Wrongs: Notions of Justice and Civic Engagement in Multi-Ethnic American Literature”

MELUS invites individual papers that explore how multi-ethnic literature engages topics related to civic engagement and justice. Papers may consider literature that deals with legal and/or penal systems, but can also explore how civic engagement can promote justice (e.g.: political activism leads to more socially inclusive governing bodies/representative democracies; educational reform opens access to education for underrepresented/minority students; etc.) and also be limited by injustice (e.g.: wrongful convictions within racially-biased justice systems systematically strip ethnic minorities of the right to civic engagement).

Please send abstracts of 250 words and a short bio to Stella Setka at by January 4, 2019.

CFP, MELUS Special Issue: Re-Thinking, Re-Reading, and Re-Seeing Ethnic Historical Fiction (2020)

Call for Papers: Re-Thinking, Re-Reading, and Re-Seeing Ethnic Historical Fiction (Special Issue of MELUS)

Guest Editors: Cathy J. Schlund-Vials (University of Connecticut, Storrs) and Jolie Sheffer (Bowling Green State University)

Deadline for Submission of Initial Proposal Abstracts: October 1, 2018

Deadline for Completed Essays: March 1, 2019

Anticipated Publication: 2020

We are in a golden age of historical fiction, with acclaimed literary novelists and graphic novelists exploring major events in the past from new perspectives. Ethnic American (and North American) writers have been particularly influential in this genre, in the process bringing new insights to major historical events from the past, including the Boxer Rebellion, the American Civil War, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War (US War in Vietnam), the Cultural Revolution, and more. Historical fiction always has the capacity to bring the past vividly to life and to reappraise specific events in light of new evidence. But our recent moment is distinguished by novelists uniting historical fiction with that of speculative fiction, imagining alternative histories or “counter-factual history.” These forays into the “dustbin of history” shine focused light on our present, bringing our current preoccupations – such as the insidiousness of white supremacy, the unresolved trauma of war, the demonization of refugees and immigrants – to light through their detailed re-creation and re-imagination of historical events.

Such creative forays and relevant foci figure keenly in the recent publication of works such as Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, Karen Tei Yamashita’s I Hotel, Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers and Saints, among many more. These works not only have garnered accolades from prize committees and annual “best of” lists but also have gained large audiences. In sum, ethnic historical fiction has emerged as a vibrant site to contemplate the past/present dimensions of US racial struggle, formation, and empire.

Accordingly, this special issue will feature essays exploring specific authors and their revisionist accounts of historical events and what they reveal about the retrospective and prospective views of history.

What follows are some guiding questions for submissions:

  • How do recent ethnic American authors reappraise and rewrite historical events with the benefit of hindsight? What are the definitional distinctions between historical fiction, speculative fiction, or counter-factual history?
  • How do writers lay bare the racial legacies embedded in genre conventions? How do these authors revise and/or subvert these modes? How are ethnic American writers pushing form into new areas?
  • Is there anything distinctive about minority writers’ approaches to historical fiction? Does a comparative approach reveal patterns previously hidden?
  • Considering the contemporary moment, how have movements such as #blacklivesmatter, #sayhername, and #metoo challenged ethnic writers to grapple with the past and present in new ways? How have recent controversies involving previously beloved ethnic authors (such as Junot Díaz and Sherman Alexie) provoked new or renewed debates about how/whether readers and critics can (or should) separate the author from the work?
  • Do certain genres carry heavier ethical expectations or have the capacity for greater philosophical provocation?

Please submit 250-500 word abstracts to the co-editors ( and by October 1, 2018. After reviewing all of these proposals, the co-editors will invite up to 45 people to submit completed essays by March 1, 2018. These essays will then be peer reviewed as part of MELUS’s normal refereeing process. Ultimately, 8-10 will be selected for the special issue.

Completed essay submissions should be between 7,000 and 10,000 words (inclusive of notes and works cited). Shorter think pieces are also encouraged. Citations should follow the format of the MLA Style Manual 8th edition. Please do not include the author’s name anywhere in the manuscript. Essays under review at other journals or previously published in any form will not be considered for publication in MELUS. Please include an updated 250-word abstract with your final submission.

If invited to submit a full essay, you will be instructed to do so through the MELUS online manuscript system by March 1, 2019. The system can be accessed using the following URL: In the “custom questions” section of the online submission form, please note that you are submitting to the CFP for the special issue on ETHNIC HISTORICAL FICTION. For questions about the issue, please contact Cathy Schlund-Vials ( or Jolie A. Sheffer at

Call for Proposals, MELUS panel at MLA 2020


January 9-12, 2020, Seattle, WA

Panel Title: Intersectionality in Fantastic and/or Magical Realist Multi-Ethnic Literature

We invite papers that examine the ways that race, gender, and/or sexuality intersect in American multi-ethnic texts that might be categorized as “magical realist” or “fantastic” and that promote the notion of coalition building. Must be a member of MELUS at the time of the MLA 2020 Convention.

Deadline: Monday, March 4, 2019

Submit to Stella Setka,

Call for Papers for MELUS 2019 Special Issue: New Directions in Irish American Literature and Culture

 Guest Editor: James Byrne
Deadline for Submissions: 15 April 2018
Anticipated Publication: 2019

In his preliminary note to the 1993 MELUS special issue on Irish American Literature, Charles Fanning wrote, “In hundreds of works as accomplished as any in American literature, [Irish American] writers have described and considered the experience and changing self-image of the American Irish. The result is a literature the study of which has much to teach us about ethnic otherness in American life” (1).Since this issue, not only has the number of works written about the self-image of the American Irish continued to grow, more significantly, the ways in which we’ve come to understand this self-image has been exponentially developed and deepened. Along with the list of exciting new transnational writers of the Irish American image has come a new and often challenging critical reflection on the construct and contours of the Irish American ethnic subject. Issues such as race, gender, space, performativity, and national sympathies have been reexamined as part of an engaged study of the Irish American stereotype as it has developed over the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. New studies have emerged in Irish American autobiography, interethnic relations, and the Irish American subject in the popular and political press. This new issue seeks to gather and reflect some of these new directions in Irish American studies.  We invite broad understandings and a varied approach to the theme of this issue. Topics to be addressed might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Irish American literature and culture in a multi-ethnic context
  • Interethnic relations in Irish American literature and culture
  • Race and Irish American ethnicity
  • Gender, sexuality, and Irish American ethnicity
  • Transnational Irish American literature
  • The Irish language in Irish American culture
  • The ‘new wave’ of Irish American writers, dramatists, filmmaker, artists, etc.
  • Performance and performativity in Irish American literature
  • Irish and American nationalism
  • Staging Irishness in literature, drama, film, art, music, photography, television, etc.
  • The role of space in registering Irish American ethnicity
  • Private and public identity
  • Popular culture and the Irish American subject
  • The American press and the Irish American subject
  • Ideology and the Irish American subject
  • The Irish American as paradigmatic ethnic American citizen
  • The conflicts of generational ethnicity
  • Irish American autobiography

Submissions should be between 7,000 and 10,000 words, including notes and works cited, prepared according to the MLA Style Manual 8th edition. Please do not include the author’s name anywhere in the manuscript. Essays under review at other journals or previously published in any form will not be considered for publication in MELUS. Please also include a 250-word abstract with your submission. All submissions will go through MELUS’s normal refereeing process.

Please submit completed papers through the MELUS online manuscript system: by 15 April 2018. Also, you will need to indicate in the “custom questions” section of the online submission form that you are responding to the CFP for the special issue on New Directions in Irish American Literature and Culture. For questions about the issue, please contact James Byrne (



Several travel awards are available: the Katharine Rodier Graduate Student Travel Award, the MELUS Graduate Student Travel Award, and the MELUS President’s Contingent Faculty Travel Award. To submit a travel award application, please email your conference abstract toKaylee Jangula Mootz, MELUS Graduate Student Representative, at and specify the travel award(s) for which you wish to apply.

Visit also the conference website, and note that the deadline for submitting a conference abstract is October 1, 2019.

Conference website:

Congratulations to MELUS authors and editor!

Congratulations to Karen E.H. Skinazi and Lori Harrison-Kahan for winning the The Don D. Walker Prize this year for their MELUS essay, “Miriam Michelson’s Yellow Journalism and the Multi-Ethnic West” (2015). Congratulations also to Jaime Javier Rodríguez for winning an Honorable Mention for his MELUS essay, “El ‘Adiós Tejas’ in El Corrido Pensilvanio: Migration, Place, and Politics in South Texas” (2015). The Don D. Walker Prize is sponsored by the Western Literature Association, and is given annually to the best essay published in western American literary studies during the previous calendar year. The essays were nominated by the MELUS editor-in-chief, Gary Totten. Congratulations to all!

MELUS CFP for Special Issue, Twenty-First Century Perspectives on US Ethnic Literatures, 2018

MELUS Call for Papers
Special Issue: Twenty-First Century Perspectives on US Ethnic Literatures
(A commemorative special issue in honor of MELUS Emeritus Editor Joseph T. Skerrett, Jr.)

Access pdf document here: melus_ special issue_ skerrett_cfp

Guest Editors: A Yęmisi Jimoh and Angelo Robinson

Deadline for submission: 31 August 2016
Anticipated publication: 2018

With more than a decade and a half into the twenty-first century, the editors of this MELUS special issue seek scholarly papers that can contribute to a critical exploration of the significance of multiethnic literatures in the academy, the nation, and our increasingly connected world. We seek papers that examine or/and theorize US ethnic literatures through engagement with concerns and questions shaping literary study in the twenty-first century. While emphasizing scholarly perspectives informed by our contemporary times, we welcome a broad range of approaches (ranging from theoretical examinations to formal literary structures) and themes in essays covering all periods, all US ethnic literatures, and a variety of genres, including poetry, plays, ethnic travel writing, children’s literature, essay writing, neoslave narratives, short story collections, film, and relatively new genres such as the graphic novel.

This special issue will also commemorate the teaching and scholarship of Joseph T. Skerrett, Jr. in his service to MELUS as president and editor. His influence on the study of US ethnic literatures, particularly in the areas of identity politics, cultural memory, and narrative structure is immense. In celebration of these contributions and more, we seek papers that present forward-thinking approaches to societal gender imperatives, ethnicity, race, class, sexuality, culture, and immigration/citizenship.

With the above objectives in mind, we are looking for submissions that could address, yet are not limited to, these questions:

 How do twenty-first century demographics affect conversations on ethnicity and race?

 Are there new ways, informed by our twenty-first century moment, to engage literature when considering issues such as race, class, gender, and sexuality?

 How has the state of ethnic literatures evolved during this century and how do our pedagogical practices reflect these changes?

 What is the landscape of gender debates in US ethnic literatures?

 How are ethnic masculinities portrayed in US ethnic literatures?

 Who are the emerging multiethnic writers in the United States and what stories are they telling or what different perspectives are they presenting in literature? Consider writers such as Daniel Black, Beth H. Piatote, Bryan Thao Worra, Debra Magpie Earling, Jade Chang, Colson Whitehead, lê thi diem thúy, Linda LeGarde Grover, Mohja Kahf, Claudia Rankine, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Evelina Zuni Lucero, Randall Kenan, Paul Beatty, and others.

 Are there new ways to engage the works of established writers such as Richard Wright, Percival Everett, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ernest Gaines, Sherman Alexie, Zora Neale Hurston, Gish Jen, Toni Cade Bambara, Leslie Marmon Silko, Chang-Rae Lee, Toni Morrison, N. Scott Momaday, Walter Mosley, Gerald Vizenor, Phillis Wheatley, Langston Hughes, Vikram Chandra, Ishmael Reed, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alice Walker, David Henry Hwang, Zitkala-Sa, August Wilson, Joy Harjo, Ralph Ellison, Mitsuye Yamada, Jhumpa Lahiri, James Baldwin, Gloria Naylor, Maria Helena Viramontes, Shawn Wong, Louise Erdrich, or other well-known writers?

 How have ethnic literary and cultural movements (Afro-futurism, Native American Renaissance, Pinto Poets, and others) progressed during the twenty-first century?

 Are there new ideas in ethnic feminisms?

 What is the role of popular fiction (mystery, romance, speculative/science fiction, urban fiction, and so forth) in the twenty-first century literary landscape?

 How are US ethnic literatures representing sexuality and the ethnic/raced body?

 How are citizenship and immigration (e.g. post-911 ethnicity in the US; racial justice; the Confederate flag in South Carolina and across the US) represented in ethnic US literatures?

 What role do cultural themes such as food, ethnic gardens, religion, art, music, or travel play in literature by ethnic writers?

 What are the new critical issues in multiethnic literary studies resulting from increased literary production by diverse voices in US ethnic literatures, including new immigrant populations that have resulted in an expanded US citizenry and a broadened ethnic literary environment?

The editors welcome theoretical examinations of these questions/topics. Submissions should be between 7,000 and 10,000 words, including notes and works cited, prepared according to the MLA Style Manual 7th edition. Please do not include the author’s name anywhere in the manuscript. Essays under review at other journals or previously published in any form will not be considered for publication in MELUS. Please also include a 250-word abstract with your submission. All submissions will go through MELUS’s normal refereeing process.

Please submit completed papers through the MELUS online manuscript system: by 31 August 2016. Also, you will need to indicate in the “custom questions” section of the online submission form that you are responding to the CFP for the special issue on Twenty-First Century Perspectives on US Ethnic Literatures. For questions about the issue, please contact Angelo Robinson ( or Yęmisi Jimoh (

Dr. Lori Harrison-Kahan, new MELUS book review editor

We welcome Dr. Lori Harrison-Kahan to the role of book review editor for MELUS and thank Dr. Catherine Fung for her three years of service in this position. Dr. Harrison-Kahan is an Associate Professor of the Practice of English at Boston College. A recipient of the American Studies Association’s Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars and Contingent Faculty, she is the author of The White Negress: Literature, Minstrelsy, and the Black-Jewish Imaginary (Rutgers University Press/American Literatures Initiative, 2011), which received an honorable mention for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers Book Award. She is also the co-editor with Josh Lambert of “The Future of Jewish American Literary Studies,” a special issue of MELUS (Summer 2012). Her essays and book reviews have been published in American Jewish History, Callaloo, Cinema Journal, Jewish Social Studies, Journal of American History, Legacy, MELUS, Modern Drama, Modern Fiction Studies, Modern Language Studies, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, and The James Joyce Quarterly. Her work also appears in the anthologies Styling Texts: Dress and Fashion in Literature; Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion; Passing Interest: Racial Passing in U.S. Fiction, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990-2010; The Race and Media Reader; The Edinburgh Companion to Modern Jewish Fiction; and the MLA’s Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Nella Larsen. Lori holds an A.B. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She has previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, Connecticut College, and Brandeis University.

Please send books for review to the following address:

Lori Harrison-Kahan
English Department
Boston College
Stokes Hall—4th Floor, South
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467