CFP: Special Issue of The Journal of Lesbian Studies ‘The Gentleman Jack Effect/Affect
Proposals due December 20, 2021
Jennifer Reed, PhD, Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, California State University Long Beach
Ella Ben Hagai, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, California State University Fullerton
Please send your 250-500 word proposal to Jennifer Reed (Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ella Ben Hagai (email@example.com) by December 20, 2021.
This special issue is devoted to the phenomenon that is Anne Lister and Gentleman Jack. The organizers are looking for papers that explore Anne Lister and/or Gentleman Jack, in relation—however discomfiting—to lesbian histories, identities, communities, or cultures.
Gentleman Jack is an eight one-hour episode series that premiered on BBC One and HBO in Spring 2019. The show introduced most of its audience, for the first time, to Anne Lister, a woman who lived in West Yorkshire, England (1791-1840), and is often called “the first modern lesbian.” Lister’s life is known only because she left a journal of approximately five million words. Much of the journal is written in a secret code, that details her active sexual life with other women, and her secret marriage to Ann Walker. The show is based faithfully on the journals and brings Anne Lister to life in a way that has captivated audiences, especially lesbians. The international response to the show and to its subject, Anne Lister, has been a phenomenon in itself among lesbians. It has created a fascination with Anne Lister and her life that has ignited multiple large fan groups, inspired pilgrimages to her estate, Shibden Hall, spurred academic papers, organized the #Annelistercodebreakers (a group of volunteers from around the world who have transcribed the entire five million words), and led to public monuments like the Anne Lister College at York University, and a bronze statue of Lister in Halifax, both unveiled in October 2021.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- As more parts of Anne Lister diaries are decoded and transcribed what new findings are revealed about her life, relations, preoccupation, identity, and genius?
- Gentleman Jack constructs an Anne Lister for contemporary audiences. What are the implications for the contemporary view of Anne Lister, the historical person? What does Anne Lister, the historical person, offer to contemporary audiences?
- Anne Lister was a conservative, elite, landowner in an industrializing England. At the same time, she was a radical presence as a gender-nonconforming woman who loved women, and who had no shame about any of it. How does Anne Lister’s identity complicate historical and contemporary notions of politics, gender, and sexuality?
- What did Gentleman Jack offer lesbian audiences that was new? How might we understand the deep affective response among lesbian audiences?
- Where does Gentleman Jack fit in a canon of lesbian/queer media?
- Fan response to Gentleman Jack has produced new knowledge, new communities, new media. What is unique about the fan culture and the meanings made by the response to Gentleman Jack?
- Anne Lister lived before the identity ‘lesbian’ was created. Was she a lesbian? Does it matter? How did a “pre-lesbian” character speak to a “post-lesbian” culture?
- Anne Lister’s journals reveal the existence of at least two other women she knew who were similar to her in their performance of gender non-conformity. What might their existence tell us about the performance of gender in this time and place?
- Anne Lister’s sexual life, documented in her journals, indicates that she had no trouble seducing otherwise heterosexual women. What does that documentary evidence reveal about sexuality in the early 19th century?
- Gentleman Jack introduced audiences to Anne Lister’s wife, Ann Walker, which has also inspired interest among contemporary audiences. Much has been unearthed about Anne Walker as a result, including her own journals. What do those discoveries about Walker illuminate?
- What does it mean that Anne Lister’s journals, including knowledge of her sexual life, were hidden in plain sight for decades before mass media brought her to popular attention?
- Whereas Anne Lister has been declared the “first modern lesbian” what other contemporaries of her era are overlooked or overshadowed?
The organizers are interested in essays from any disciplinary perspective, of up to 5,500 words. They are also interested in including short, public-facing, and/or experimental articles, as well as visual art and poetry. Please send your 250-500 word proposal to Jennifer Reed (Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ella Ben Hagai (email@example.com) by December, 20 2021. Contributors will be notified of the status of their proposal by January 2, 2022, and full manuscripts are due by March 15, 2022.
The organizers encourage you to spread the call far and wide.
The Journal of Lesbian Studies is a peer-reviewed journal published by Taylor and Francis.