Special Issue “Democratizing the Black Public Intellectual: The Writings of Ta-Nehesi Coates”

August 15, 2016
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College Language Association
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Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ascendancy carries the hallmarks of a Horatio Alger tale.  With his 2015 recognition as a MacArthur Genius and a National Book Award winner, his rise from humble beginnings to illustrious acclaim acquired a nearly storybook sheen.  A “rags to riches” account of his success holds immense charm; however, such an explanation does not offer a full picture of his significance.  Coates’ path from brief attendance at Howard University to star blogger, renowned Atlantic feature reporter, and worldwide phenomenon intersects with fascinating developments in 21st century literature and intellectual history.  Unfolding in a post-9/11 world, his career limns several trends in contemporary culture, chief among them the democratization of black public intellectualism.  This special issue for the College Language Association Journal (CLAJ) considers how Coates, the writer, blends new media tools like blogging and experimental nonfiction in black expressive traditions that stretch back through stylists like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Paule Marshall, Richard Wright, Ida B. Wells, and W.E.B. DuBois.  Probing how his publications engage a less predictable archive of topics and techniques, this volume explores the extent to which he and his work signal that the task of articulating black cultural priorities has migrated from a predominantly professorial cohort to a more varied constituency.Michael Hill of the University of Iowa’s Department of English/African American Studies and longtime CLA member will join Jessica Welburn of the University of Iowa’s Department of Sociology/African American Studies and Deborah Whaley of the University of Iowa’s Department of American Studies/African American Studies as guest editors for this special issue.  They seek 5000-7000-word articles that explore Ta-Nehisi Coates vis-à-vis the study and the teaching of black literature.  By fostering scrutiny of his writings, the editors of this issue hope to draw out a watershed in modern cultural discourse.  Any articles on Coates’s oeuvre are welcome; however, the editors especially welcome submissions on the following topics.

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates and Black Memoir
  • The Black Essay from James Baldwin to Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Black Literary Celebrity: Alice Walker and Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Black Music Criticism as Cultural Work for Ralph Ellison and Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Black Nationalism in the Writings of Amiri Baraka and Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Blacks and Big Data: W.E.B DuBois, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Writing about the Problem of Race
  • Literary Endorsements: Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates and Gender Politics
  • Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Uses of History in Nonfiction by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Isabel Wilkerson
  • Black Nonfiction in the Age of Obama: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kiese Laymon, and Toure
  • Blog as Genre: Mark Anthony Neal and Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Writer as Truth Teller: Ta-Nehisi Coates. Frederick Douglass, and Social Indictments of the United States
  • Public Feuds: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cornel West, and Michael Eric Dyson
  • Stretching Out: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Serial Publications, and Literary Aesthetics
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sociology
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Howard University, and Black Literary Production
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates and Bill Cosby
  • Black Genius: African American McArthur Grant Winners and Cultural Prestige
  • Roots Maneuver: Ta-Nehisi Coates and Baltimore
  • Ferguson and The Role of the Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Lives Matter, and Black Power
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Marvel, and The Meaning of A Black Panther
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates and Long-Form Journalism

Please send 200-word abstracts that address the above topics to michael-hill@uiowa.edu by August 15, 2016. After the editors vet incoming abstracts, we will make invitations for full submissions by September 12, 2016.  Complete articles will be due by May 22, 2017.