We wish we could be meeting authors and readers at the MLA 2021 Annual Convention. We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new titles at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to offer a 30% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues with coupon code MLA21 until February 15, 2021. View our Literature and Literary Studies catalog below for a complete list of all our newest titles in the field and across disciplines. You can also explore all of our books and journals in literature and literary studies on dukeupress.edu.
Most Januarys I end up with a new piece of winter weather gear—lined boots, a long down coat, thicker socks–prompted by the almost inevitable polar vortex or winter storm that accompanies the MLA conference. This year, I won’t be acquiring any new gear (except for maybe some new headphones). Instead, like many of you, I’ll be attending MLA from the warmth of my home in my reliable work-from-home uniform of sweatpants and cardigan. It has been a year since I’ve traveled to an academic conference, and I miss it. I miss meeting you all in person and getting updates on your writing and on your lives. I miss hearing about exciting new projects. And I especially miss showing off our new books and talking with folks in the book exhibit.
Nonetheless, I am excited for this year’s MLA program, which is truly stellar, and for all of the new books that we will be bringing to you in our virtual exhibit, also stellar. You will be seeing me at a lot of panels (a luxury that I’m not usually afforded during in-person conferences). Some of the ones on my list include: Black Feminist Poethics; Dissident Black Feminisms, Black Feminist Dissidence; Editing and Inclusivity; Quare Souths; and Scaling Trans Studies. (My Friday schedule is booked from morning ‘til night. How about yours?)
And now for some of my top picks from this year’s new books:
Riché Richardson’s Emancipation’s Daughters: Reimagining Black Femininity and the National Body is a book for our moment. Richardson focuses on the ways that black women leaders in the U.S.—including Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, Condoleezza Rice, and Michelle Obama–have expanded and challenged exclusionary and white-centered notions of the “national body” and political subjectivity. The book also features some of Richardson’s own quilts created as homage to the Black women leaders she discusses in the book.
In Infamous Bodies: Early Black Women’s Celebrity and the Afterlives of Rights, Samantha Pinto also focuses on iconic Black women, in this case women from the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Sally Hemings, Sarah Baartman, and Sarah Forbes Bonetta. Through her provocative and engaging reading of these women’s lives and continued legacies, Pinto reveals how the forms of pleasure, risk, violence, desire, and ambition that these women experienced can offer powerful models of political embodiment and vulnerability that remain relevant today.
In Counterlife: Slavery after Resistance and Social Death Christopher Freeburg asks: how can we think about the lives and artwork created by and about slaves outside of a framework of resistance and freedom? Taking up a diverse set of texts—from Black spirituals to “The Boondocks”—Counterlife is a rich and provocative book that shows how enslaved Africans created meaning through artistic creativity, religious practice, and historical awareness both separate from and alongside concerns about freedom.
Race and Performance After Repetition, edited by Soyica Diggs Colbert, Douglas A. Jones, and Shane Vogel, brings together an impressive set of contributors to focus on the relationship between race and temporality in performance, pushing past the trope of “repetition” to consider pauses, rests, gaps, afterlives, and other forms of temporal interruption. There will also be a panel featuring some of the contributors on Sunday morning.
Sexual Hegemony: Statecraft, Sodomy, and Capital in the Rise of the World System is Christopher Chitty’s posthumous first book, and it’s an incredibly expansive project, taking on 500 years of the history of capitalism and male-male sexual relations in Europe and the U.S. Revising Foucault’s account of the production of modern sexuality, Chitty offers a Marxist history of male homosexuality, focusing on the policing of male-male sexual relations as integral to the consolidation of capital and private property under the bourgeoisie. A must read for folks working in queer studies.
Influx & Efflux: Writing Up with Walt Whitman–Jane Bennett’s long-awaited follow up to Vibrant Matter–will be of special interest to folks in literary studies. Bennett turns to Whitman to help answer the question: What kind of “I” inhabits a world of vibrant matter? In Whitman she finds a model for what she calls a “processual self” – a self constantly in formation, susceptible to influence but also exerting an influence of its own. Bennett’s thinking is expansive and generous; it’s a pleasure to read this book.
Finally, even though it’s not out yet, I can’t resist pointing you towards Kevin Quashie’s Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being, the latest installment in the Black Outdoors series edited by Sarah Cervenak and J. Kameron Carter. Quashie builds his book on a seemingly simple prompt: “Imagine a black world.” Not a world where the racial logics of antiblackness are inverted, but rather a world where blackness is totality, where black being and the rightness of black being is assumed rather than justified. It’s a beautiful book that draws upon a wealth of Black feminist writing and poetry, from Audre Lorde to Nicky Finney. Quashie’s writing is magnetic. This one makes my must-read list for 2021.
There are plenty more books for you to browse at our virtual exhibit and on our website. Make sure to use the code MLA21 to receive a 30% discount (through March 31st).
If you would like to contact me about a project, you can send me an email, or you can submit your proposal through our online portal. I look forward to seeing folks in person next January (and perhaps sporting a new bit of winter weather gear as well).
I share with Courtney the sense of loss of our meeting in person. I’ve been attending MLA every year for many years, back to the last millennium. I was the rare person attached to the old conference schedule, when it met between Christmas and New Year’s. I loved arriving in a city in that liminal time, seeing chosen family, and finding a moment for a little sale shopping, a restaurant I had only read about. But even after the meeting moved to the start of January, I still love it. The chance to see so many people in such a short time. Panels that even now can crystalize a political or theoretical moment. I can remember lots of less-than-great things too – the hidden book display in Boston a mile away from everything – but overall, I’m missing all of you and the event.
So here we are with MLA, the play-at-home game. A consolation prize. Are we consoled? This is my fourth or fifth online conference and I’m here to say it’s not the same. Entering a room for a panel and finding a friend and joining them beats seeing a person on the same Zoom session every time. Still, we can sit where we want and get coffee without waiting in a twenty-minute line. We can actually see the speaker up close. Hang on to their words — or slip out to another session without being too conspicuous.
Like seeing people in person, seeing books in person is hard to replace. I’m in this business, so generally arrive at MLA thinking I’m up on things, but when I go around the book exhibit, there are always great books I hadn’t heard about. I love being in the booth and showing people the new titles – my old bookseller self — that will interest them. So here are a few exciting recommendations from our list. There are many – that’s why we have two booths – but here are some highlights!
Sara Ahmed’s next book Complaint! will be out in the fall, but if you haven’t read its companion, What’s the Use? it is a must. Like all of Sara’s book’s it is filled with perfectly described scenes and with clarifying sentences one recalls over and over again in meetings and in everyday life.
Speaking of meetings, Katina Rogers’ Putting the Humanities to Work asks what we need to do to rethink the literature PhD process from curriculum to department websites to hiring, that would make a program work better for all involved. Matt Brim’s Poor Queer Studies talks about the difference in teaching and theorizing in rich institutions and poor ones and asks how queer theory would have been different if it had developed in and for poorer students and communities of color.
Two books that would be headliners on any list came out this past fall. Jack Halberstam’s Wild Things and José Estaban Munoz’s long-awaited final book, The Sense of Brown. Both books are events. Halberstam is thinking through more wild and open relations to nature and sexuality. The book takes up more literature than his recent books, so will be especially good to think with for readers at MLA. José Munoz’s book has been in process for two decades. The thinking and writing runs parallel to Cruising Utopia and the book contains his important work on Brown feeling and the sense of Brown, Latinx performance, and much more.
It’s a particularly strong season for Latinx and Americas work in general. I’m very excited about former MLA President Diana Taylor’s ¡Presente! bringing her thinking about performance and politics together in some sparkling new ways. Also Arlene Dávila’s Latinx Art which made several end-of-year best lists, Ren Ellis Neyra, The Cry of the Senses, – just out – and the fabulous Keith Haring’s Line by Ricardo Montez. Finally, don’t miss Jillian Hernandez’s Aesthetics of Excess.
Equally important have been a series of books in Black Studies. R.A. Judy’s long-awaited Sentient Flesh, Ashon Crawley’s moving and beautiful The Lonely Letters, Shana Redmond’s capacious and necessary Everything Man, each brilliant thinking and creative critical writing. Don’t neglect Brigitte Fielder’s acclaimed Relative Races. And just out, Anthony Reed’s beautiful Soundworks on the interplay of Black poetry and experimental musics.
This is the moment for combining writing which takes chance with thinking that also moves in new directions. We have started a whole series Writing Matters! edited by Lauren Berlant, Saidiya Hartman, Erica Rand, and Katie Stewart, to give such books a home. The first, Diary of a Detour by Lesley Stern, came out earlier in the fall, and we have just published Erica Rand’s new The Small Book of Hip Checks: On Queer Gender, Race, and Writing.
Amitava Kumar’s challenge to academic writers, Every Day I Write the Book, is perfect for thinking about opening up one’s own writing. And if one wanted an example of someone who did this with wonderful skill and ease, read Emily Lordi’s transformative, The Meaning of Soul – both a fabulous book on soul music and an exemplary book of prose style.
One thing I love about our list and this moment – perhaps similar to the combination of theory and writing — is when thinkers take two conversations and think them together. Erin Mannings’s For a Pragmatics of the Useless, thinks Black theory in relation to neurodiversity, while Ian Baucom’s History 4° Celsius puts the history of the Black Atlantic with the Anthropocene.
We’ve just released Kaiama Glover’s fantastic A Regarded Self, her reading of unruly and uncontainable Caribbean women figures. Glover also translated Françoise Vergès, The Wombs of Women, which we published in the spring. Laura Kang’s Traffic in Asian Women takes these colonial, imperial, and feminist concerns to the Pacific mapping their complexities in a crucial way. Laura Doyle’s Inter-imperiality: Vying Empires, Gendered Labor, and the Literary Arts of Alliance is also just out, with its own longue durée account of empire and literature. Finally – in a true last but not least –if you don’t have Achille Mbembe’s crucial and all-too-timely, Necropolitics, it is the book needed now, for all the good and bad reasons.
There are lots more I could mention, but I hope you get a chance to virtually look around, and that we can wave across some Zoom room.
You can hear about DUP books or join DUP authors in panels online through the MLA conference portal, including:
- Fred Moten, “Presidential Plenary: Poetics of Persistence in Black Life,” 8 January 2021, 12-1:15pm EST
- “Just in Time: Securitization and Its Discontents: Reading Insurgent Aesthetics across Borders,” 9 January 2021, 10:15-11:30am EST
- Lisa Lowe, “Intimacies as Method in the Long Nineteenth Century,” 10 January 2021, 3:30-4:45pm EST
- Shane Vogel and Douglas A. Jones, “Race and Performance after Repetition,” 10 January 2021, 10:15-11:30am EST
And flip to page 29 of our literature & literary studies catalog to peruse exciting new issues from journals such as Comparative Literature, English Language Notes, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Modern Language Quarterly, Transgender Studies Quarterly, and many more. Don’t forget that journal issues are eligible for the 30% conference discount with code MLA21!
If you were hoping to connect with Courtney Berger, Ken Wissoker, or another of our editors about your book project at MLA, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our online submissions guidelines here.