northeast modern language association

Deadline Friday: Poe and Comics at NeMLA 2017!

Friday, September 30, 2016, is the deadline to submit to the more than 400 calls for papers at the 48th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, in Baltimore, Maryland.

My colleagues and I are organizing exciting panels in studies of literature and popular culture, including two sessions I’m putting together on Edgar Allan Poe and representations of disabilities in comics.

And additional sessions below may be of interest in light of recent developments in comics and the superhero genre–Luke Cage premieres tomorrow as well, so why not watch the show, and use that to draft an abstract to a relevant session below?

These are just a few of the exciting sessions (with links for submitting 300-word abstracts) that can lead to dynamic discussions–so please consider submitting abstracts or forwarding these calls of papers to interested peers.

CFP: “Marvel vs. DC: Civil War?” (NeMLA Baltimore 2017; deadline Sep 30 2016)

Last year at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), my colleague Mary Ellen Iatropoulos and I were happy to host Lisa Perdigao on our academic roundtable about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This year, for NeMLA’s 2017 convention in Baltimore, Lisa is organizing a panel on rivalries, not just within Marvel Comics but as it pertains to its long-lasting competition with fellow comic book publisher DC Comics.

DC and Marvel have collaborated in the past for crossovers and amalgamations of their fictional universes, revealing the parallels between them, such as Batman and Daredevil (or Iron Man), Green Arrow and Hawkeye, Atom and Ant Man, Superman and Captain America (or Thor)–or just so we could see a fistfight between the Justice League and the Avengers, or watch Superman wield Captain America’s shield and Mjolnir.

This competition has moved off of the comic book pages and onto the silver screen. Whereas Marvel has embraced a fun, eclectic blending of various genres in its numerous film adaptations from Disney and other film studios, DC has remained fixed largely at Warner Bros and has persisted with a grim portrayal of superheroes that has appealed to some fans and irritated many others. It’s even inspired popular web parodies. This shift from comics to film production even resulted in a new bicoastal rivalry: DC Comics has moved to Hollywood, while Marvel Comics stays in New York City.

This CFP also has the potential for presentations not necessarily as to the rivalry between DC and Marvel, but a comparison of how the two comic book companies portray rivalries. How does the rivalry between Superman and Batman differ from that between Captain America and Iron Man? How are metahumans portrayed differently from mutants and inhumans? What is it about superhero stories that perpetuate the idea of rivalries rather than collaboration?

And that’s not even touching upon all of the other works that DC and Marvel have created but which are outside of the superhero genre, such as literary adaptations, The SandmanPreacher, and Lucifer.

Obviously, there are a wealth of topics for consideration to this CFP, and I strongly encourage interested scholars to submit to Lisa’s session, or to forward this CFP to interested colleagues.

The full CFP is below.

Marvel vs. DC: Civil War?

Northeast Modern Language Association
Baltimore, March 23-26, 2017
Chair: Lisa Perdigao (Florida Institute of Technology)
Deadline: September 30, 2016

Submit 300-word abstracts and short bios online at 

Released in spring 2016, Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice converge on the narrative of a house divided. Marvel’s and DC’s staging of the wars between their respective superheroes is suggestive of a larger battle between the two franchises that dates back to the comics. These two films represent turning points for the companies, as they threaten to disassemble the Avengers and the Justice League as soon as—and even before—they are created. Adapted from the comics, the films’ narratives highlight central tensions within the individual universes as well as the ongoing rivalry between the two companies.

This panel will explore how the concept of civil war plays out within and between the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC Entertainment films and television series. Papers are sought that examine individual Marvel and DC works (comics, films, and television series), the expansive Marvel and DC universes, and the relationship between the two rival companies. Possible topics include the difficulties of assembling a superteam in the twenty-first century, the race to utilize new mediums in the digital age, and the conflicting ideologies represented by Marvel and DC.


CFP: “Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics” (NeMLA 2017 Baltimore, Deadline 9/30)

I wrote earlier about the many session proposals on comics, graphic narratives, animation, and related topics that the Northeast Modern Language Association includes for its upcoming March 2017 convention in Baltimore. With this year’s convention focused in large part on language, culture, and international studies, one particular comics session is especially relevant. Comics frequently focus on transformations–mutations, maturation, name alterations–as allegories for feeling one’s identity changed by movement or displacement.

My colleague at Keene State College, Rafael Ponce-Cordero, is organizing the session “Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics,” which considers both formal and content-based transformations. This session therefore looks at how comics represent or use transformations, whether as how characters conceive of changes to their identities in terms of race, nationality, as well as gender and sexuality, or how transformations of the comics medium have altered ways we communicate about these and other topics.

Potential topics may include adaptations from comics to animation and other media, innovations in the comics medium, or transformations of characters, whether physical mutations, Sailor Moon-esque transformation sequences, or changes to characters’ personalities over their publication history.

The CFP is below. Please consider submitting a 300-word abstract and a brief biographical statement to NeMLA’s CFP List web site at this link: Please forward this call for papers to interested scholars.

The deadline is September 30, 2016. If you have any questions, please email Rafael Ponce-Cordero (

Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics
Rafael Ponce-Cordero (Keene State College)

Description: The transformation sequence is standard to comics: Clark Kent rushes out of the phone booth and is now Superman, Usagi Tsukino spins and lights up to transform into Sailor Moon, Kamala Khan experiences terrigenesis to become Ms. Marvel, and Bruce Banner hulks out into a giant green rage monster. This session welcomes submissions that look at transformations not only of characters but of the graphic narrative form, and how those alterations affect other narrative practices in the novel, film, and television.


CFP: “Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-Century Popular Culture Narratives” (NeMLA 2017, Baltimore, Deadline 9/30/2016)

My colleague Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (co-editor of the recent volume Joss Whedon and Race) is organizing a session at the March 2017 meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association in Baltimore, Maryland, focusing on questions of what is canon in comics, film, and television.

“Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-Century Popular Culture Narratives” considers how shifts between comics, film, and television affect authorship and interpretation of stories, around what is considered canon among readers and fans.

Examples abound in recent adaptations of comics for television and film, as well as continuations of films and television in comic book format. There is the continuation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the debates as to whether these texts are considered official continuations of the story began on television, as well as continuations of Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity and Dollhouse, and comics-only prequels to Mad Max: Fury Road and the J. J. Abrams Star Trek films.

Related topics may consider how recent adaptations of United States comics for film and television alter what is considered canon in the original comics, as with DC and Marvel’s numerous adaptations, including SupergirlPreacher, Suicide Squad, and Jessica Jones. 

As well, in Japanese comics, there are considerable debates among fans–and academics–regarding the canonical status of anime that diverge sharply from their source material, before new adaptations emerged that were more faithful to the original text. Such was the case of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist, whose initial anime adaptation in 2003 diverging so much from the manga that a later adaptation, Brotherhood, was produced and considered by some to be more accurate.

Submissions may also consider the place of films that are based on entirely new content with limited involvement by the original mangaka, such as One Piece, or cinematic continuations that alter the original story substantially, such as the transition of Madoka Magica from television to film.

Abstracts and short bios are due September 30, 2016, at this direct link to NeMLA’s CFP List web site:

Please consider forwarding the following CFP to any colleagues who may be interested in this session. For more information, please email

“Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-century Popular Culture Narratives”
Northeast Modern Language Association, Baltimore, Maryland, March 23-26, 2017
Deadline: September 30, 2016
More information: Mary Ellen Iatropoulos,

Description: How does transmedia storytelling inform and influence contemporary understandings of the relationships between medium, auteur, canon, and fandom? When both fans and creators are “creating” meaning out of transmedia texts, what counts as canon – as the “real” character or story? By what criteria and to what critical end is such a judgment made, and to whom do we grant the right to make such judgments? This panel session seeks proposals that explore the often-vexed but equally-often fruitful relationships between readers, writers, auteurs and fans in the world of 21st-century popular culture narratives.


CFP: Superhero Narratives and (Dis)Ability (NeMLA 2017, Baltimore, Deadline 9/30/2016)

Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (co-editor of the forthcoming volume Joss Whedon and Race from McFarland) and I are co-organizing a roundtable for the March 2017 Baltimore meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, focusing on representations of disabilities in superhero narratives.

This roundtable seeks presentations exploring how the superhero’s superpowered engagement of ableist society reveal or illustrate complications of negotiating the construction of (dis)ability. Recent works in comics, television, and film, such as DaredevilBatgirlMy Hero Academia, and Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, may be relevant to this roundtable’s discussion.

Please consider submitting a 300-word abstract and a brief biographical statement to NeMLA’s CFP List web site before the September 30th deadline. And please forward this call for papers to interested scholars.

The full CFP is below. Please email me at if you have any questions.

Superhero Narratives and (Dis)Ability

Chairs: Derek McGrath (Independent Scholar), Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (Independent Scholar)

Popular culture narratives present ever-increasing images of persons with disability, whether through superheroes themselves or via supporting cast members. Apart from literal impairment, superheroes and superpowers can also be read as allegories for disability and Othered bodies and minds. How can superpowers be read as disabilities, or disabilities as superpowers? How does the superhero’s superpowered engagement of ableist society reveal or illustrate complications of negotiating the construction of (dis)ability?


CFP: “Maps in Popular Fiction” (NeMLA 2017, submission deadline 9/30)

My colleague Emily Lauer is organizing a session for the 2017 meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, March 23 to 26, in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Based on the CFP’s mention about maps in comics and manga, maybe cartography in Jeff Smith’s Bone or, as shown above, maps in Oda’s One Piece could yield potential topics for submissions. And I have some advice for people working on abstracts for this and other sessions.)

Please submit abstracts by September 30 to NeMLA CFP List web site here: Please share the CFP below with anyone who may be interested in submitting.

Maps in Popular Fiction

Maps bound in at the beginning of books can shape the reading of the book in a variety of ways. This panel will consider the questions of genre raised (and perhaps answered) by prefacing fiction with maps, and also the various issues of intertextuality indicated by the presence of the map. This panel welcomes papers that examine the importance of printed maps in popular fiction of a variety of genres and forms including mysteries, fantasies, and superhero stories in comics, novels, manga series, and more.

CFP Reminder for NeMLA 2017 Baltimore: Comics, Edgar Allan Poe, and More! (DEADLINE: 9/30/16)

The 48th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association will be March 23 to 26, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland. With almost 400 calls for papers, there are numerous opportunities to share your research with fellow scholars and teachers.

In addition to the full list of CFPs, I recommend submitting proposals for sessions on Edgar Allan Poe or comics–and I happen to be organizing sessions on both (“The Pop Culture Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe” and “Superhero Narratives and (Dis)Ability”). Both links take you directly to the CFP List submission web site for 300-word abstracts, short biographical statements, and any audio-visual equipment requests. Submissions are due September 30, 2016. 

Participants may submit paper abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; participants may present in no more than one session of the same type but may present a paper as part of a panel and also participate on a roundtable or creative session. More information is available at NeMLA’s web site.

And if you are interested in submitting to other sessions, here are lists of sessions in the same category:

CFP: Comics/Graphic Narrative Sessions at NEMLA 2017, Baltimore (Deadline 9/30/2016)

UPDATE, 7/10/16, 7:01 PM EST: Added “Teaching bandes dessinées as Literature”
UPDATE, 7/13/16, 10:46 AM EST: Added
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 Years Later and Where We Went” and “Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-century Popular Culture Narratives”

The Northeast Modern Language Association continues its work to expand scholarly discussions about comics and graphic narratives. Session proposals for the upcoming Baltimore conference, meeting March 23 to 26, include panels organized and chaired by my colleagues Rafael Ponce-Cordero, Emily Lauer, and Lisa Perdigao, as well as one roundtable I’m co-organizing with Mary Ellen Iatropoulos on representations of disabilities in superhero narratives.

Please consider submitting 300-word abstracts and brief biographical statements to the following sessions, and please forward these calls for papers to interested scholars. Submissions are due September 30, 2016, at CFP List. Links for submitting abstracts and bios to each session are below.

Participants may submit paper abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; participants may present in no more than one session of the same type but may present a paper as part of a panel and also participate on a roundtable or creative session. More information is available at NeMLA’s web site.

Have I forgotten a comics-related NeMLA session to add? Please email me at or tweet me at @dereksmcgrath.


CFP: Edgar Allan Poe sessions at NeMLA 2017, Baltimore (Deadline 9/30/2016)

The 48th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association will be March 23 to 26, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland. As one of Edgar Allan Poe’s homes, the city provides opportunities for discussion about the author’s life and his works. With that goal in mind, many of us are organizing sessions about approaches to researching and teaching Poe. (I’m organizing the session “The Pop Culture Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe.”)

Please consider submitting 300-word abstracts and brief biographical statements to the following sessions, and please forward these calls for papers to interested scholars. Submissions are due September 30, 2016, at CFP List. Links for submitting abstracts and bios to each session are below.

Participants may submit paper abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; participants may present in no more than one session of the same type but may present a paper as part of a panel and also participate on a roundtable or creative session. More information is available at NeMLA’s web site.

Teaching Poe: His Social Commentaries,  Detective, and Science Fiction  (Roundtable)

Chair: Annette Magid (SUNY Erie Community College)

The focus of this roundtable is to discuss pedagogical techniques that can interest students in Poe’s detective and science fiction stories as well as his social commentaries. As we move into the twenty-first century, pedagogical techniques become even more critical in order to preserve a body of work that is at once canonical and current. Which of Poe’s works are most successfully taught, and how is this accomplished?

Poe and the Senses (Panel)

Chair: Susan Elizabeth Sweeney (College of the Holy Cross)

This panel explores the senses in Poe’s work, whether his powerfully suggestive descriptions of sensory experience involve acute sensitivity, overwhelming sensory stimuli, sensory deprivation, the dimness or evanescence of certain images or sounds, or the persistence of particular sensory stimuli in the memory. Papers could address evocations of any of the five major senses in Poe’s work, as well as related topics such as embodied consciousness, synaesthesia, kinaesthesia, and other forms of sensory experience such as pain or intoxication. In general, the panel will investigate how Poe describes various intense sensory experiences in order to evoke kindred sensations in his readers.

The Pop Culture Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe (Panel)

Chair: Derek McGrath (SUNY Stony Brook)

Edgar Allan Poe is a zombie: his themes, tropes, stories, tone, and arguments persist long after his death, not only in subsequent poetry, short stories, and criticism but also in film, television, music, and new media. This session welcomes approaches to reading Poe’s influence forward into later popular culture, in particular strategies for incorporating works of current popular culture in the classroom when teaching Poe.

Poe and the City (Roundtable)

Chair: Susan Elizabeth Sweeney (College of the Holy Cross)

This roundtable focuses on Poe’s representations of cities and city-dwellers as well as his personal connection to several cities. Participants could contribute presentations on Poe’s urban detective stories, his attitude toward crowds, spectacles, and the flaneur; his attention to details of the urban setting (ranging from architecture to paved streets, gaslight, and street signs); his imaginary accounts of cities like Paris and Edinburgh; and his invention of villages such as Rattleborough or Vondervotteimitis. Participants could also discuss his affiliation with different cities in his career as an editor, his relations with the New York and Boston literati, and the influence of specific cities on his life and work. Since the NeMLA conference takes place in Baltimore, presentations on Poe’s relationship to that city—where he first began to develop as a writer of fiction, where he met and married his cousin Virginia Clemm, and where he died in 1849—are especially welcome.

Poe and Pym in Black and White (Panel)

Chair: Jennifer McFarlane Harris (Xavier University)

This panel seeks papers that will explore the “Africanist presence” in Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Papers that engage The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and its intertexts (e.g., Mat Johnson’s Pym) are particularly welcome. Panelists are invited to consider the function of hybrid genres, mixed-race or race-shifting characters, the stubbornness of the black/white binary in American racial thought, and how Poe’s works—in light of Toni Morrison’s critical framework—might illustrate the social construction of race in literary terms. Please submit a 300-word abstract and a short bio.

Primer to NeMLA 2016: Thanks to the Board!

The 47th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association begins Thursday, March 17, in Hartford, Connecticut. I will be posting summaries for some of the sessions in which I am fortunate enough to be participating. For this initial post, I want to express my gratitude to NeMLA for providing not only opportunities to present my research and to discuss topics of importance to me with other scholars, but also for the work opportunities the organization has provided.

As Director of Marketing and Communications for NeMLA, I am in contact with the Board, with local organizers, and with session participants to best advertise the special events, the local tourism, and the presentations that take place each year. The work I do helps publicize all that NeMLA has to offer in the professionalization and scholarship of its members. Collaborating with the Board and with staff at the University of Buffalo, we proofread all sessions before they are in print and online, we draft the content and layout for the two newsletters mailed each year, and we use social media to direct advertisements directly to interested audiences. Some of my greatest satisfaction comes from being able to help spread the word about funding options, workshops, speaking engagements, and advising that NeMLA offers to scholars and teachers of languages and literature.

My work with NeMLA started by just presenting. In my second year at the English PhD program at Stony Brook University, with encouragement from advisers, I submitted abstracts to sessions that may fit with seminar papers and initial dissertation research. One of the remarks repeated by NeMLA participants is that the conference benefits from being one of the largest conventions, attracting scholars from all over the world, while still having the close-knit structure of a regional conference. If I had not felt welcomed by NeMLA in my first presentations, I’m not sure how my career path would have differed: the organization opened up opportunities in work and in maintaining associations with colleagues at other universities and organizations.

NeMLA was an outlet for presenting on content that was within my methodological approach in gender studies, even if the content was far removed from the usual source material I was analyzing. While working on my dissertation in domesticity in the antebellum United States, it was my paper on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog that secured me a spot on a roundtable organized by former NeMLA executive director Elizabeth Abele. Elizabeth was one of many mentors I have had in my studies, and she provided opportunities for me to become more involved with NeMLA that helped me in at least three important ways. First, she developed the roundtable into a volume, which became one of my first printed publications. Second, she recommended me to work on the NeMLA convention newsletter, which eventually turned into my position as Director of Marketing and Communications. Third, Elizabeth kept encouraging me to present at conferences, which helped me to develop topics that demonstrated my breadth as a scholar. Based on how Elizabeth constructed her own roundtable, I co-organized my own with NeMLA and K. Wayne Yang and Keith McCleary at UC San Diego. This roundtable, on comics and pedagogy, eventually developed into another roundtable Keith and I held at the MLA in January 2016.

My participation in NeMLA is work that I take seriously. I try to stay involved each year, beyond my capacity as convention staff, to keep organizing sessions and keep presenting on other organizers’ sessions. In addition to the debt I owe to Elizabeth, I appreciate the opportunities provided by NeMLA Board members and staff including executive director Carine Mardorossian, associate executive director Brandi So, administrative assistant Renata Towne, and webmaster Jesse Miller. I have enjoyed the opportunities getting to collaborate with them, and I think their work on the 2016 meeting in Hartford will help the organization progress and better address the goals and interests of NeMLA’s membership.