MLA 2022 Collaborative/Non-Guaranteed Session CFP: Reading and Translating Comics in Two Directions

(DEADLINE: 3/15/2021)

Call for Papers for a proposed special session at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, Jan. 6-9, 2022, in Washington D.C. This collaborative panel is jointly sponsored by the Arabic Forum and the Comics and Graphic Narratives Forum.

The 2022 MLA Presidential Theme calls us to look at “multilingual US,” and “make language a tool of inclusion rather than exclusion.” Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, and the “Maghreb” are the main producers of comics and graphic narratives today. Comics have become very popular among Middle Eastern writers and artists, such as: Zeina Abirached, Lena Merhej, Magdy El Shafee, Leila Abdelrazaq, and Riad Sattouf, who use comics to shed light on personal, sociopolitical, and cultural issues in the Arab and Muslim world. Palestine, in particular, plays a key role in the growing interests in graphic narratives mainly through its diaspora, intellectuals, and artists. If Egypt had dominated the comics publishing industry for decades, Lebanon replaced Egypt in the 1960s as the largest hub of comic production. This session hopes to examine the literary, aesthetic, and thematic influences of multilingual comics artists and writers. The genres and media covered include comics strips, graphic narratives, satirical cartoons or karikatir, and graffiti. We welcome presentations that examine the multilingual work of artists and authors while also exploring connections to Arabic and English graphic narrative forms. In what ways, reading and translating comics represent inclusion or exclusion? Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Translation and interpretation of comics originally published in Arabic into English
  • Translation and interpretation of comics originally published in English into Arabic
  • Issues and limitations of translation and access (e.g.: what gets translated or not)
  • Influences from/on particular comics artists and writers and their works
  • Multilingualism in comics and graphic narratives
  • Multilingualism and comics creation, production, publishing, and distribution
  • Multilingualism, multimodality, and other media

Send 250-word abstracts and 2-page CV by 15 March 2021 to Yasmine Khayyat ( and Lan Dong ( Submitters will receive notification of results by April 1.

Please note: this is a proposed, not a guaranteed, session at MLA 2022. It is contingent on approval by the MLA Program Committee. All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by April 1, 2021.