Women and Democracy: From Antiquity through the Early 20th Century (August 15, 2015 - March 24-25, 2016)

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University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Women and Democracy:
From Antiquity through the Early 20th Century

International Conference at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA
March 24-25, 2016

The conference will explore, on the one hand, the ideology of "female inferiority" as prompted by ancient democratic laws, and, on the other hand, modes of resisting women's inferior position in history, literature, and culture. It aims at investigating how these antagonistic forces are cultivated in Classical literature, and also bequeathed to later eras through the study of Classical literature. In much the same way that Lycurgus' legislation changed dramatically the character of Spartan society, Solon's laws transformed both the political system in Athens and the social position of women. The Homeric epics offer a good baseline for the status and social function of women in pre- or non-democratic systems, in which women's value was relatively high. After the institution of democracy, however, when citizenship and voting rights were granted only to qualified males, women's value decreased significantly. At the same time, there are cases of women in tragedies, comedies, or histories even who seem to challenge the customary law and transcend their gender restrictions. Even though democracy was not practiced again until the 18th century, the relationship between women and the state continued to be strained. Women were denied the right to property, education, public and professional life, etc. However, both early modern and modern history provides examples of women who defied customs and laws that excluded them from such activities.

Proposals are invited for papers and presentations that will highlight the complicated relationship between women and democracy and examine the development of an ideology of "female inferiority" and the counter forces it has generated in writings that extend from antiquity through the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, a key period in women's suffrage. Essays may address the reception of the Classical portrayal of women as weak and unstable beings (though empowered in some cases) by later authors, and engage with questions like: How has modernity responded to ancient practices of excluding women from political processes? What are the reasons behind the repeated return of feminist voices to the ideal of classical democracy? How have the moderns attempted to re-interpret and re-appropriate Athenian democracy and its attitude toward women?

Proposals falling under the general conference theme but not specifically listed here will also be considered. Papers may compete for inclusion in a volume of edited essays (not conference proceedings) on this topic. Please send proposals of 500 words and a short biographical note by email attachment to Dr. Katerina Kitsi-Mitakou (katkit@enl.auth.gr) and Dr. Tatiana Tsakiropoulou-Summers (tsummers@ua.edu) by August 15, 2015.