Deadline for submissions: January 20, 2017
Full name / name of organization: American Literature Association
Contact email:
American Literature Association

28th Annual Conference

Boston, May 25-28, 2017

Endemic: Crisis and Representation in 20th and 21st century American Literature

The sense of national crisis has become endemic. From Greek roots, the word endemic means a condition that is constantly present in a “demos,” in a group of people. Today’s democracies face such constant threats as internal division, terrorism, and global climate change, and we are unsure whether any moment of crisis could prove to be the turning point that determined the future. We might wonder, however, when Americans were ever not living in a time of crisis, and whether our decisions really do allow for a different future.

This panel explores the endemic sense of crisis by looking to twentieth and twenty-first century American literature. As Pericles Lewis claims, writers of the early 20th century addressed crises of representation in response to political and institutional crises of war, nationalism, faith, reason, and empire. Even as the iconoclastic energies of modernism have waned, the modernist project continues with an ever-broadening array of literary subjects, forms, and techniques. We seek papers on literary works that represent American life in crisis and that help illuminate current crises. Topics may include the Great Depression or the Great Recession, Civil Rights Protests or the Black Lives Matter Movement, Nazism or ISIS, McCarthyism or the politics of Russian internet hacking.

We hope to understand whether and how such socio-political crises are endemic, how they occur, and whether they persist, recur, and iterate over time. We hope to find answers to questions such as: how does literature register this sense of crisis? Do literary experiences help to create it or escape it? Do they simply present or clarify an era’s crises? How does literature help imagine resolutions or contain threats? And what models, if any, does it offer for survival, stability, or progress?

Submit abstracts of no more than 300 words to along with a brief description of yourself and your relevant work. The deadline for submissions is January 20, 2017.