Call for Papers
The Nicknames of Distortion: A Hortense Spillers Symposium | November 11 -12, 2022
Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, Brown University

In 2019, renowned American literary critic and Black feminist scholar Hortense Spillers donated her
papers to the Pembroke Center’s Feminist Theory Archive in the name of the Black Feminist Theory
Project, and in April 2022, the Pembroke Center opened the exhibit “Hortense Spillers: A Life Recorded.” In celebration of both the collection and exhibit, we are soliciting papers for a Fall 2022 symposium on Spillers’s contributions to intellectual and pedagogical practices in the fields of Black feminist criticism, literary studies, and cultural studies, among others.

Spanning handwritten diaries, notebooks, and draft writings; personal and professional correspondence; and conference, syllabi, and teaching materials dating from 1966 to 1995, the variety of Spillers’s materials within the collection offer insight into her everyday commitments and curiosities, further texturing what Spillers describes as the need for a revised public discourse that can undo and reveal “silence [as] the nickname of distortion…”1 In order to foster emerging forms of such public discourse, we are seeking submissions by early-career scholars and graduate students, as well as independent scholars and artists. While scholarship on Hortense Spillers has been shaped by her prolific critical and theoretical writing, one of our hopes for this symposium is that it will also take up the personal within the archive. We also welcome contributions grappling with Spillers work, both within and beyond this archival moment, that elicit other ways of reading that trouble hegemonic truths and grammars. We wonder what Spillers’s work in general and her archives in particular might offer for understanding one’s commitment to the archive? What of the interchange between cultural production, social histories, and documentation so central to the archival process? And how might we conceive of the public’s role in the archive?

We invite submissions for 15-20 minute papers organized around the aforementioned facets of Spillers’s collection, though we happily welcome all submissions that engage Spillers’s work and life.

Topics might include (but are not limited to) the following:
● Spillers’s practice of study – what it means to engage responsibly in cross-cannon work at the
disciplinary limits of knowledge production.
● The centrality of correspondence, collaboration, and company to the intellectual history of Black
feminist and women of color organizing, within and beyond the academy.
● The place of the “notebook” & autobiographical register in enabling alternative forms of memory
and testimony that rest “outside” the historical record.
● The evolving relationship between Black feminist theory and the university and/or archive, with
attention to shifting pedagogical needs and directions of the discipline.
● The use of archives for formal innovation within radical critical practice across disciplines.

Please use Google Form to upload your submission ( by September 6th, 2022. If you have any questions please contact As part of your submission, please include a 200-250-word abstract and a working title, as well as your institutional affiliation/contact information. Responses can be expected 2-3 weeks after submission deadline.

1 Spillers, Hortense J. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Diacritics, vol. 17, no. 2,
1987, pp. 73.