Black Studies & Romanticism Virtual Conference (selected contributions to be published in RoN)

CFP Black Studies & Romanticism Virtual Conference 

Sponsored by the Mount Holyoke English Department & the Critical Social Thought Program

June 24-25, 2021

Hortense Spillers suggests that a new “grammar” for thinking and instigating Black liberation from white history is necessary. With this conference we offer a platform, one virtual but intimate, for people interested in seeking what new grammars we in the eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and present centuries need to learn from Black Studies in our period-bound disciplines. Our hope for the conference is that it will address the white power structures that support anti-blackness in the larger world and in the field of Romanticism. Romanticism entails a history of promised but failed revolutions, a history that terrorizes as much as it transforms. While the field has long been shaped by histories and discourses of whiteness and patriarchy, this conference avows and solicits new and ongoing scholarship on race, anti-slavery, abolition, and indigeneity. 

In that regard, we hope the conference also continues the conversations about the future, if there is one, of Romanticism. We hope to press forward with conversations about Romanticism and anti-racist studies in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries already underway, to work collaboratively to find new grammars and narratives, and to press mutually on the theoretical foundations of each period. Such a project might include looking at abolitionary and anti-racist discourses within the period, drawing on contemporary critical race theory, and contemplating anti-blackness in modern scholarly methods. We know that no future is possible without a restructuring of the field that decenters whiteness and systemic racism. Our other hope, then, is that by undertaking the work of this conference we can bring together a range of scholars, both inside and outside of Romanticism, to ensure a vitality of voices are heard with work that takes the form of solidarity and collective action.

What new narratives might nineteenth-century, eighteenth-century, and romantic-era texts furnish to develop our own anti-racist future? How is Black Studies necessary to rethinking those fields in the development of this future? How might Black Studies show a history in this constructed period not constituted by whiteness? In other words, how might Black Studies help us as we reconfigure Romanticism as a site of vital contemporary scholarship, pedagogy, and activism? How might Romanticism and Black Studies meet in other ways, in other speculative futures?

Conference papers and panels will be punctuated by three plenaries. The first will feature Bakary Diaby (Skidmore), Annette Joseph-Gabriel (U Michigan), and Nicole Aljoe (Northeastern) in conversation; the second, Eugenia Zuroski (McMaster), Kerry Sinanan (UTSA), and Matt Sandler (Columbia) in conversation; and the third will feature a talk by Zakiyyah Iman Jackson (University of Southern California). 

Topics are open but might include papers or think pieces on Romantic-era texts and Black Studies writers such as C. L. R. James, Fred Moten, Saidiya V. Hartman, Frank B. Wilderson III, Christina Sharpe, Cedric Robinson, Hortense J. Spillers, Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, R. A. Judy, Calvin L. Warren, Jared Sexton, Dionne Brand, Marquis Bey, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Achille Mbembe, Jennifer C. Nash, Keguro Macharia, M. NourbeSe Philip, David Marriott, Tiffany Lethabo King, Joshua Bennett, and Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, among others. We welcome pieces that explore Black Studies in relation to transatlantic, indigenous, transgender, nonbinary, queer, feminist, disability, abolitionist, and decolonization scholarship, pedagogy, and activism. We especially welcome papers on underread or unknown Romantic-era authors, authors from the longer nineteenth century or Black Atlantic, and authors outside the time period who nonetheless connect to it. We encourage papers, presentations, and performances of creative scholarship, in any way you’d like to define it. 

We’ll ask participants either to record or post papers, performances, presentations, or collaborations a week before the conference. (Individual papers should aim for 15 minutes; collaborations might be longer.) There will be space for online commenting, but submissions will be grouped and then discussed synchronously at the conference. 

We will also have a special, separate forum designed to showcase undergraduate work done this year on these topics. If you’d like to have your students participate in some way, please indicate your interest in your proposal.

Selected papers, presentations, and other work will be collected in a special issue of Romanticism on the Net.

Proposals of 350-500 words should be sent to ( by December 15th. Details on acceptance will follow shortly thereafter. Please send any and all questions to the conference co-organizers, Kate Singer (Mount Holyoke College) and Chris Washington (Francis Marion University).