Call For Papers

Join us for the 34th annual MELUS conference in New Orleans, LA!

April 2-5, 2020

Le Meridien Hotel, 333 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

Hosted by the University of New Orleans

Conference Theme: Awakenings and Reckonings: Multiethnic Literature and Effecting Change–Past, Present, and Future

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION is now available. Please click on Register Now!

Deadline for Abstracts was November 1, 2019

The theme of the 2020 MELUS conference takes inspiration from Christina Sharpe’s 2016 In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, in which she draws on the various meanings of “wake” to consider Black experience in the U.S. She invokes and theorizes the watery wake that followed the slave ship, the ritual of the funeral wake, and a state of consciousness, wakefulness, or “wokeness” that signals awareness about new and enduring legacies of injustice. Her work of theory is a powerful call to address each of these aspects.

New Orleans is an apt site for considering how multiethnic literatures have been in dynamic relation to various wakes. Ships, burials, mournings, and hauntings have long defined the experiences of and stories told by New Orleanians and those who have passed through the city.  A port city that served as 19th-century America’s largest trading center of enslaved Africans and African Americans, New Orleans was also the site of one of the most important and overlooked rebellions led by enslaved people in the U.S. The long wake of slavery in the city has been particularly visible in the dramatic race and class disparities that created, along with the failure of the federal levee system, the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina in the city. 

The conference theme also alludes to Kate Chopin’s classic New Orleans novel, The Awakening, which challenged gender and sexual norms of the late 19th century. Chopin is part of a robust genealogy of writers who have told–and continue to tell–stories of shifting consciousness, social change, and painful reckonings set in and around the South. As such, we aim to highlight and discuss how literature has responded to and effected change in the past, present, and in imagined and manifested futures. New Orleans been a key site for moments or processes of personal and collective awakenings. For many, Katrina was an important moment of awakening or renewed consciousness about the adaptation of past structures of exploitation and disposability for a new era.

New Orleans’ diverse communities also provide considerable opportunities for examining how immigrant groups and their literatures have effected and continue to effect change. The city’s port was the second largest point of entry for immigrants to the U.S. in the 19th century, among them German, Irish, Italian and Sicilian, and Haitian immigrants after the 1804 revolution. More recently, Vietnamese and Latin American immigrants have also helped to shape the city. Their voices have also contributed to the city’s multiple moments of awakenings and reckonings.

We welcome proposals for individual papers, panels, and roundtables, as well as creative writing and pedagogical discussions, on the broad spectrum of underground histories in multi-ethnic literature, culture, and performance including, but not limited to:

  • Representations of wakes, wakefulness, and awakenings 
  • Representations of reckoning with the past
  • Shifts in consciousness
  • Reckoning with the South’s Confederate Past
  • Literature and public memory/monuments
  • Representations of ports, shipping, and circulation
  • Representations of funerals, wakes, and burials

For more information about MELUS, The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, visit . For more information about the MELUS journal, visit For more information about the University of New Orleans English department, and its graduate programs in Literature and Creative Writing, please visit