This panel seeks papers about the role of African American women in the lives of cities. Portrayals of the male flanuer of the Harlem Renaissance or the young man caught up in the urban ghetto are familiar literary tropes, but less critical attention has been paid to the representation of Black women in the city. Texts as diverse as Nella Larsen’s Passing and Richard Wright’s Native Son feature tragic Black female characters, for whom the city became an end. Conversely, characters in Langston Hughes’ Little Ham or Alice Walker’s The Color Purple find success and independence in the big city. The complexity of such texts and characters challenges mainstream ideas of race, culture, and gender, and provides an opportunity for rich analysis.
How do these intersections between race, class, and gender affect our understanding of the urban setting, and what can we learn about the life of the city from such an analysis? How have Black women helped to create or reclaim urban spaces? What role do they play in literary texts about the challenges of urban life for people of color or for populations more broadly? Papers may address any time period, and may focus on literary, cultural, or historical representation. Please send a 250 word abstract and a brief bio to Sharyn Emery at firstname.lastname@example.org by June 1, 2014.
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