This special issue examines the role of literature and criticism in addressing poverty and dispossession. In a 2009 Inside Higher Ed op-ed, Keith Gandal predicted that the economic crisis would lead to literary studies finally putting “poverty near the top of the agenda and the center of the field.” Ten years later, poverty has become a focus of scholarship in the social sciences, particularly geography, anthropology, sociology, and critical legal studies. Yet the topic remains stubbornly marginal to literary studies, even though qualitative social scientific methods have been taken up in the discipline as never before. This special issue addresses this oversight by asking what literature and criticism distinctively have to offer to an understanding of poverty and impoverished communities in the United States and abroad. What theories and methods of reading does literature about poverty demand? What language for talking about...

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