CFP: African Literary Criticism Online (MLA 2019)

Summary Call

African Literary Criticism Online. Discussions about the emergence of online criticism as a site for understanding knowledge production in/about Africa. Send 250 word abstracts and a one-page CV before March 15 to Naminata Diabate, with ‘MLA PANEL” in subject line.

Expanded Call

The Africa since 1990 Forum of the MLA invites submission of abstracts for a guaranteed panel titled “African Literary Criticism Online” at the 2019 Annual Convention in Chicago. “It’s gotta be digital. And that’s the next thing. The moment when people will be consuming their school texts on a digital device will be a big moment for us--as a generation, our things will be read” predicted in 2011 Binyavanga Wainaina. Although not all textbooks are accessed on a digital device, texts by the new generation of African writers are being read, reviewed, and even criticized online. The rise and development of African literatures on digital platforms (blogs, e-magazines, social media, and the Internet) is accompanied by the emergence of African literary Internet.

Contributing to the renaissance of African literary practices, these platforms include, among others, Saraba, Enkare Review, Brittle Paper, Okadabooks, the Jalada Collective, Iqra, StoryMoja, LibHub, Afrikult, James Murua’s literature blog, Chimurenga, and Sunshine. Unquestionably the list is getting longer by the day. As these online platforms generate new reading publics, network existing ones, foster a sense of immediacy, they also create celebrities, canonize texts, and invigorate less formalized genres. Despite their welcome presence, literary criticism online suffers many setbacks, including but not limited to an ephemeral life span, an informal and unstructured dynamic, a questionable quality, and the constantly fragile boundaries between criticism and the search for fame.

In expanding the ongoing academic conversations on the life of this literary culture, this panel seeks to examine the extent to which African literary Internet reconfigures conventional sites, methods, and theories of literary criticism.

Prospective panelists should submit a 250-word abstract to Naminata Diabate ( by March 15, 2018 with “MLA Panel” in subject line.

We welcome papers addressing the following questions among others:

  • How might we either theorize or critique online literary criticism by exploring practices from and about Africa?
  • To what extent is the interaction between authors, readers, and critics shaping new African writing and by extension African literary studies?
  • To what extent do these platforms shape the future of criticism as an academic exercise?
  • How might we define and conceptualize the ways in which academic literary criticism can guide digital literary culture’s compelling tendencies evolve and thrive?
  • How does online literary criticism put pressure on concepts such as authorship, publishing, criticism, academia, and journalism?
  • How might we write the history of African literary Internet?
  • How might we conceptualize the political and cultural work of these literary practices in our socially networked world?
  • To what extent does online literary criticism participate in the formation of literary stardom and processes of canonization?