Of Victorian Interest

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Of Victorian Interest

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Joint CFP: British Women Writers Conference & Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies Special Issue

"(Un)disciplining Within the Nineteenth Century: Historical Hybridity in Self-Reflective Writing by Women"

A special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies edited by Shuhita Bhattacharjee and Michelle M. Taylor, with related British Women Writers Conference panel in May 2023

BWWC Panel Abstracts Due: January 31, 2023
NCGS Special Issue Abstracts Due: June 11, 2023

The organizers encourage scholars to consider the conference as a means of exploring and workshopping ideas for the special issue. The selection of papers for the BWWC panel and for the NCGS issue will be independent of each other, and authors may apply for one or both.

NCGS Special Issue

Many subfields within literary studies have been re-evaluating their assumptions and methodologies in light of the augmented—if overdue—attention being allotted to ethnic studies, specifically post-BLM (Black Lives Matter) 2020, and in the shadow of other such movements spanning a decade (the 2012 Idle No More indigenous movement, among others). Of course, for many subfields, such as African American studies or postcolonial studies, such a shift was not necessary. But many scholars across gender studies, animal studies, or religious studies have renewed or enhanced their commitments to ethnic studies and DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) over the past several years—and in ways that both avoid merely perfunctory engagement and maintain the original objectives of their subfields.

Victorian Studies has also been engaging with this critical impulse, attempting to “undiscipline” itself through a concerted flow of panel discussions and edited volumes. Among the most visible and recent is the team of Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Amy R. Wong, who note that as three (non-Black) women of color trained in Victorian studies, they could not but send out a timely call to “undiscipline” the field, developing this initiative in its final stages when BLM political coalitions and advocacy took center stage. Reading Jane Eyre, Olivia Loksing Moy speaks of the troubling experience of encountering the canon as a person of color and suggests “reading in the aftermath” as a preferable methodology in which the reader shows “a willingness to confront a racist past and its distorting aftereffects on life today.” Ryan D. Fong attempts the same for The Story of an African Farm, and Nasser Mufti suggests the adoption of a Saidian “contrapuntal reading” strategy and the vantage point of Pan-African anticolonialism to edge Victorian Studies towards more responsibly acknowledging its inherent exclusions and engaging more fully with the “peripheries.”

Looking at these contemporary attempts to “undiscipline” the field through current interpretive intervention, and drawing on work such as Regenia Gagnier’s, which calls for an examination of Victorian conscious “self-projection and critique,” the organizers welcome essays for this special issue of NCGS: one which examines how works of nineteenth-century literature and culture either produced by women (or persons of non-dominant gender identities) or structured around significant female characters engage in self-conscious reflection on and critique of their own impulses, with a particularly clear understanding of the criminality of their era’s exclusions and  injustices. How did authorship itself express and encourage such self-reflexivity, especially if the positions from which such critique was voiced were marginal and relatively powerless? In other words, the organizers are interested in essays that engage with the question of how nineteenth-century women, whether historical or fictional, had already begun the kind of methodological “undisciplining” that are prioritized in scholarly approaches today.

In the present context of the Ukraine war, the organizers also specifically welcome essays that consider Victorian women’s critiques of the wars through which they lived (the Crimean War, First War of Indian Independence, the Boer Wars, etc.). Though this is only one example of a crucial exercise in Neo-Victorian inquiry that reads current debates back into their polemical nineteenth-century contexts, it offers another way of framing the question posed for the special issue: how do female authors and characters emerge to us as what we might call “historical hybrids,” caught between contemporary crimes and a futuristic or prophetic self-judgment that is yet still distinctly different from the belatedness with which we seem to be arriving on the scene of human rights crimes in our own time?

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Slavery, the abolition movement, and the Emancipation Act of 1833
  • Writing in/about the colonies
  • War and/or other sources of mass violence
  • Sensation fiction/domestic fiction about international politics
  • Industrialism/industrial novels and reflections on class
  • The Imperial Gothic and crime
  • Religion/religious novels and the idea of sin/crime
  • Evangelical missionary efforts, whether at home or abroad
  • Stigma surrounding disability and mental illness
  • Stigma surrounding gender identity or sexual preference
  • Exploitation of nature and/or the nonhuman
  • Women as hybrids (monstrous/animalistic) or their historical hybridity as critics

Send abstracts of 500 words and a CV (2-3 pages) in Word or PDF format to shuhitab@gmail.com or mmtaylor2@usf.edu by 11 June 2023. Please mention “NCGS Abstract Submission” in the subject line of the email.

BWWC Panel

There will also be an NCGS panel dedicated to this topic at the British Women Writers Conference 2023 to be held at the University of Virginia, 25-28 May 2023. The theme is “Liberties'' and the abstracts are due 31 January 2023. Though there are many crossovers between the BWWC’s CFP and the NCGS panel CFP, note the opportunities in their interest for papers on “political liberties ([w]omen and nationhood, women’s civic participation, women and human rights, anti-slavery and abolition, empire and anti-colonialism, suffrage and women’s liberation,” etc.). Authors are encouraged to consider the conference as a means of exploring and workshopping your ideas for the special issue. If you are applying to the panel, please write “NCGS panel” on the BWWC submission form. The selection of papers for the panel and for the NCGS issue will be independent of each other and authors are encouraged to apply to one or both as ways to carry this necessary discussion forward in the field of Victorian Studies.

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