CfP: The Counterpublics of Underground Comix

Proposed Panel
Modern Language Association 2016 meeting
Austin, Texas
January 7-10 2016
Stichtag: 15.03.2015

Deadline for 250-word abstracts and bios: March 15. Send to: and

Call for Papers for a proposed roundtable panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, Jan. 7-10, 2016, in Austin, TX.

When underground comix emerged in America in the 1970s, they were connected with the counter culture movement and rife with anti-establishment content. These comics participated in and addressed counterpublics, which queer theorist Michael Warner defines as “formed by their conflict with the norms and contexts of their cultural environment.” Yet much of the scholarship of the underground comix movement has centered on straight white men located in San Francisco (e.g. R. Crumb, S. Clay Wilson).

Despite this focus, underground comix provided an opportunity for less dominant groups to form communities by representing alternative kinds of experience. These communities were both textual and personal, tied to specific localities across the country, with active communities in New York, Austin, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Following in the footsteps of comics scholars and herstorians like Hillary Chute and Trina Robbins, this roundtable aims to open up the conversation on underground comix through the 1980s to include the ignored voices, such as those of women, minorities, and LGBT communities in San Francisco and elsewhere in the United States.

Presentations might explore:

  • How do comics represent and participate in different social movements, such as women’s rights, LGBT activism, civil rights, disability rights?
  • What role did underground comics play in forming communities beyond San Francisco (and New York)? Where and how did these communities connect on the page?
  • What methods (form, content, style, format, outreach) do these comics employ in order to reach their publics?
  • How do underground comics respond to and subvert generic expectations and commercial forms?
  • How does the hybrid image-text form of comics allow it to reach multiple audiences?
  • How does this grassroots medium anticipate future iterations of comics, such as zines, comics by indie presses (e.g. Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly), or webcomics?

Send 250 word abstracts and bios to Margaret Galvan ( and Leah Misemer ( The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2015. Submitters will receive notification of results by no later than April 1.

PLEASE NOTE: This CFP is for a proposed, not a guaranteed, session at MLA 2016, meaning it is contingent on approval by the MLA Program Committee (which will make its decisions after April 1). All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by no later than April 7, 2015.

Please feel free to email Margaret Galvan ( and Leah Misemer ( with any questions.

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