CFP: ‘Representations of Deafness in Literature and Culture’, JLCDS

Call for Papers, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies

Special issue: Representations of deafness in literature and culture

Guest editors: Christopher Krentz and Rebecca Sanchez

Abstract deadline: 15th July 2019

What does deafness mean in societies commonly centered on speech and hearing?  Throughout human history, deaf people have been a small but significant presence on the social margins.  How have deaf people been depicted, and how have they depicted themselves?  How have sign languages figured in the equation?  What happens when deafness is used as a trope in a literary work even if no physically deaf people are present?  What is the relationship between representations and deaf people’s material status in a society?  If, as Tobin Siebers argues, “different bodies require and create new modes of representation,” then what forms and processes of representation emerge in deaf contexts?  For this special issue of JLCDS we seek articles that explore the ways deafness and deaf people have been represented in literature, film, or other media and how these presentations might expand our understandings of representation itself.

Contributors might investigate what these stories reveal (or don’t) about deaf experience and what they index about questions of communication, normality, and minority cultures. Since the 1990s, scholars such as Lennard J. Davis, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Dirksen Bauman, Jennifer Esmail, Jennifer Nelson, Kristen Harmon, Edna Sayers, and John Lee Clark have shown what a fruitful area of inquiry this can be.  How might we extend or revise their findings?

Other possible topics:

  • Representations that have been largely hidden/overlooked but have great value. What and whose stories are not being represented and what does it mean to read for these absences?
  • Medieval, Renaissance, or other historical representations, and how the representation relates to its historical moment and to today.
  • International deaf identities.
  • Deaf of color stories, deaf gender stories, deaf trans stories, deaf immigrant stories, deaf queer stories, deaf disability stories, deaf stories of class: To what extent is deafness represented/presented/storied (or not) as intersectional?
  • Considerations of what changes when deaf people write for themselves or portray deaf characters in films or on the stage.
  • The ethics and politics around hiring #deaftalent.
  • The tradition of hearing actors portraying deaf characters.
  • The significance of language in representation. What does it mean to be (always? only?) represented in a language (and/or linguistic modality) that is not one’s own?
  • The relationship between representation and (intended) audience.
  • Considerations of which stories about deafness are covered by contemporary mainstream media outlets and what effects this has on the lives of deaf people.
  • The relationship between genre and meaning.  How is poetry different from prose?  Fiction from nonfiction?  What is the relationship between genre and representation?
  • Which stories about deafness have been retold multiple times? What investments does that suggest?
  • The accessibility of contemporary media featuring stories of/by/about deaf people to deaf and other disabled audiences.


15th July 2019: submission of a 500-word proposal for articles or a 150-word proposal for reviews and a one-page curriculum vitae to the guest editors at and

August 2019: prospective authors notified of proposal status.

February 2020: Full versions of selected papers due to editors.

May 2020: Finalists selected.  Decisions and revisions on submissions sent to authors.

August 2020: Final, revised papers due.

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