Deadline for submissions: June 15, 2017
Full name / name of organization: Douglas Jones, guest editor/Modern Drama
Contact email:
Modern Drama

Special Issue: “Slavery’s Reinventions”

The proliferation of engagements with the history of chattel slavery in rarified and popular cultural productions suggests that the further we get away from that history, the more we crave and thus return to its concepts, logics, objects, and tropes in our imaginative and critical endeavors. On one hand, slavery’s brutal sublimities constitute fertile terrain for artistic originality, and the innovative forms and figures of artists working this terrain have unleashed subsequent acts of creative flourishing. On the other, many find in slavery’s history explanatory frameworks with which one might account for, and thereby help redress, persisting forms of race-based inequities and exclusions, from racially disproportionate health outcomes and household wealth to mass incarceration and police brutality. In either case, slavery becomes “slavery,” as Hortense Spillers puts it – that is, a necessary “reinvention” that “every generation of systematic readers is compelled” to make because “‘slavery’… remains one of the most textualized and discursive fields of practice that we could posit for a structure of attention” (179).

A special issue of Modern Drama (62.2, Summer 2019) will offer an accounting of the ubiquity of slavery in contemporary drama and theatre culture. Its guest editor, Douglas Jones, invites papers that consider slavery’s reinventions in dramatic literature from the time of slavery’s end in the nineteenth century to the present. We are especially interested in essays that concentrate on a specific era (e.g., Interwar period, the digital age) or movement (e.g., realism, contemporary performance art) so that collectively they will help to explain why more theatre makers are turning to the slave past than ever before. We hope to produce an issue that examines plays and productions from North America and abroad; that theorizes the aesthetic, affective, and political elaborations that embodiment offers reinventions of slavery; that demonstrates a range of approaches and methodologies; and that opens new theoretical horizons and critical orientations for the field.

Papers normally will not exceed 10,000 words and will be blind vetted by readers in the field.

Questions, proposals, or complete submissions may be addressed to Douglas Jones, Guest Editor (Rutgers University), at by June 15, 2017. Final drafts of essays will be due July 1, 2018.

Work Cited

Spillers, Hortense. “Changing the Letter: The Yokes, the Jokes of Discourse, or Mrs. Stowe, Mr. Reed.” Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003. 176-202.