MLA 2019 CFP: Stephen King at 45

MLA 2019
Call for Papers

Stephen King at 45: Mainstream Horror and the American Literary Marketplace

In 1974, Stephen King burst onto the literary marketplace with Carrie. 45 years later, he is one of the world’s bestselling novelists, with roughly 60 novels and story collections to his name (and pseudonyms) that have appeared in multiple editions and number more than 300 million copies. As a Simon Brown argues in his forthcoming book Screening Stephen King, the Maine author is something of a brand, his name signalling a particularly mainstream vision of American horror fiction. Stephen King is a phenomenon 45 years in the making—a household name, ubiquitous, maybe a little (or a lot) passé, and occasionally insightfully critical of American life across his thousands of published pages. And yet, for all of the (metaphorical) ink spilled on King in American magazines, newspapers, and in online publications, he has been largely ignored by literary scholars, even those who specialize in popular fiction.

This panel offers a critical reflection on Stephen King’s 45 years as a major figure in the American literary marketplace, offering papers that probe the aesthetic, political, economic, and institutional dimensions of the popular fiction genre of horror and that engage the literary marketplace construct of “mainstream” horror. But this panel also goes beyond ruminations on King’s literary legacy to explore, through King’s figure as a publishing and American literary phenomenon, the literariness (or not) of mainstream horror fiction and the merits to literary studies of turning our eyes to the most popular fictions in the literary marketplace. Prospective panelists are thus encouraged to make departures from King, to look at the position of other horror writers—particularly of women, queer folks, and people of color horror writers—in the American literary marketplace during the past 45 years, working in (and despite) a field shaped by the massive crossover phenomenon that is Stephen King.

Abstracts of 250-500 words and brief personal bios are due by March 11, 2018 to Sean Guynes ( If you have any questions about the fit of a paper idea before submitting the abstract, or questions about the scope of the panel in general, please contact the organizer.

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Important note: Annoyingly, MLA requires anyone submitting a proposal to the conference (which comes after the acceptance of the abstract to the panel) to be a registered member of the organization as of April 1, 2018.

The featured image is by Justin Hillgrove

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