1/3/2022 – CFP: Other than Thoreau: Nineteenth-Century African American Nature Writers

cfp nature writing

What, when & where

Call for Submissions: The Journal of the Thoreau Society, The Concord Saunterer

Special Issue: Other than Thoreau: Nineteenth-Century African American Nature Writers 

I thought of the fishes of the water, the fowls of the air, the wild beasts of the forests, all appeared to be free, to go where they pleased, and I was an unhappy slave.

Henry Bibb, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave (1849)

Henry David Thoreau has been canonized as the preeminent American nature writer of the nineteenth century. We have identified his precursors and inspirers and recognize his profound influence on the genre of nature writing, wherever it is practiced across the world. Yet many of his American contemporaries and near-contemporaries who had a thing or two to say about the natural world and their place in it have gone unrecognized, in part because of how we have defined the genre of nature writing itself. As a handful of scholars have argued, perhaps we need to look in unlikely places to find the eco-voices of nineteenth-century Black Americans (recent readings of Frederick Douglass come to mind) as well as of indigenous peoples. To do so enlarges our understanding of nature writing, its contexts, its occasions, and its purposes. While Kimberly Ruffin (Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions [2010]) and others have begun this work, in this issue, our focus is, first, on Thoreau’s contemporaries and near-contemporaries, and second, on whatever relationships we might identify or tease out between him and them.

We invite submissions that are based on archival research, that reposition relatively unknown as well as known African-American writers as nature writers, and/or that revisit those unlikely places: slave narratives, diaries, oral histories, research and field notes, art in various media, or any other cultural artifact, including geographical locations. In short, we hope to create an anthology of sorts devoted to nineteenth-century African-Americans whose productions have hitherto gone unrecognized as descriptions of, musings on, or simple indexical registers of, the more-than-human world. In addition to full-length scholarly essays, we are interested in seeing pieces that function, in effect, as actual anthology entries with contextualizing introductions and notes. We also invite creative responses that might be read as acts of recovery of nineteenth-century African-American nature writers.

Deadline & how to apply

Queries welcome. Submissions due 1 March 2022 to be sent out for review in time for the 2022 issue.

Other info, Links & conditions

Contact Kathleen Kelly at cs@thoreausociety.org.

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