From Margins to Mainstream: Multiethnic U.S. Literature in Academic and Cultural Contexts
44th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 21-24, 2013
Host Institution: Tufts University
This panel invites papers considering the place of multiethnic U.S. literature within “mainstream” academic and cultural contexts. Often considered a “subfield” of American literature whose works are thematically, formally, and even linguistically distinct from mainstream U.S. literature, multiethnic American writing nevertheless continues to move from the “margins,” playing an increasingly central role in defining the U.S. canon. Works such as Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Silko’s Ceremony, Morrison’s Beloved and Walker’s The Color Purple have arguably become mainstream American “classics,” included on syllabi and required reading lists as regularly as traditional canonical texts like Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Melville’s Benito Cereno. At the same time, works of multiethnic American literature have also become markedly “mainstreamed” in cultural and commercial contexts outside of the academy, where they are regularly featured as book-of-the-month club selections, promoted by Oprah and other “celebrity” figures, and—as in the cases of Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and Lahiri’s The Namesake, among others—even made into major motion pictures.
This panel seeks to explore what happens to multiethnic texts as they move from margin to mainstream within these various contexts. Questions for consideration might include:
- How and why do “marginal” works become “mainstreamed”?
- Who are “mainstream” readers? When, where, why, and how do they encounter “marginal” texts? How do they interpret and engage with “marginal” literature?
- How does a work’s reception in “mainstream” academic contexts differ from its reception in cultural/commercial contexts?
- How do publishers, literary agents, academics, and filmmakers attempt to alter, adapt, or frame multiethnic works in order to make them more “palatable” to mainstream U.S. audiences?
- Which works of multiethnic American literature are most easily incorporable into the mainstream? What features of a text might prevent it from entering academic or cultural mainstreams?
Please send abstracts to Melissa Dennihy at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 30, 2012.
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)
The 2013 NeMLA convention continues the Association's tradition of sharing innovative scholarship in an engaging and generative location. The 44th annual event will be held in historic Boston, Massachusetts, a city known for its national and maritime history, academic facilities and collections, vibrant art, theatre, and food scenes, and blend of architecture. The Convention, located centrally near Boston Commons and the Theatre District at the Hyatt Regency, will include keynote and guest speakers, literary readings, film screenings, tours and workshops.
Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.
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