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CFP for the 2022 MLA Annual Convention--“Art Becomes Life and Life Is Art”: Langston Hughes and the Art of Interconnection (MLA)

Organization: The Langston Hughes Society
Event: MLA
Categories: African-American, 20th & 21st Century
Event Date: 2022-01-06 to 2022-01-09 Abstract Due: 2021-03-15

“Art Becomes Life and Life Is Art”: Langston Hughes and the Art of Interconnection

CFP for the 2022 MLA Annual Convention

January 6-9, 2021 | Washington, DC

Throughout his career, Langston Hughes worked to reveal connections between people and overcome the divisions that allowed the few to exploit the many. Poems such as “I, Too” speak powerfully to the artificial barriers that excluded millions from the full promise of the United States, while later works such as Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz connected worldwide contemporary and past struggles to address a complexity that often escaped simplified Cold War readings of East and West. In the case of the Scottsboro Boys, he lent his pen and person to raise the visibility of their cause and to resist a symbolic erasure that would have inevitably led to their executions under the swift and brutal “justice” inflicted on Black bodies in 1930s Alabama and elsewhere. Hughes’s travels encompassed several continents and found him exploring the lives not of the leaders and political elite but of the common folk and the outcasts--the excluded masses whose experiences resonated with his own and with whom he tried to connect with music and poetry. As Hughes remarked in a radio speech in support of the Antifascist Intellectuals Alliance in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, the alliance produced work in which “art becomes life and life is art, and there is no longer any need of a bridge between the artists and the people.” For Hughes, this connection between artist and people was crucial to creating socially meaningful art.

The Langston Hughes Society welcomes papers for a special session at the 2022 Modern Language Association Convention (to be held January 6-9, 2022, in Washington, D.C.,) that explore themes of inclusivity and interconnectedness in Hughes’s writings. What are ways in which Hughes seeks to create common cause or reveal connections that transcend racial, national, or cultural barriers? Paper proposals may explore, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hughes on tour: bringing “poetry to the people” in the 1920s
  • Hughes’s exploration of the Soviet Central Asian Republics
  • Hughes as translator and in translation
  • Defending the Scottsboro Boys
  • Preserving and expanding the canon: Hughes as anthologist
  • Hughes in the pages of the Chicago Defender
  • Solidarity in art: Hughes and national or international cultural organizations

The deadline for abstract submissions for this panel is Monday, March 15, 2021. Please send, as an attachment, an abstract of no more than 300 words, a brief CV, and a 100-word biographical statement to Dr. Christopher Varlack, President (lhsociety.president@gmail.com), Dr. DeLisa D. Hawkes, Vice President (lhsociety.vp@gmail.com), and Dr. Richard Hancuff, Secretary (lhsociety.secretary@gmail.com)

Note also that in addition to the membership and registration fees required for MLA, presenters on this session must also be current members of the Langston Hughes Society by the time of the conference in order to present. 

For more information on the Langston Hughes Society and our mission, please visit us online at www.langstonhughessociety.org. 


Christopher Allen Varlack