‘The Business of a Woman’s Life’: female authorship, celebrity, and fandom in the long-nineteenth century

deadline for submissions: 
November 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
University of Reading


Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it even as an accomplishment and a recreation.  

   --- Robert Southey to Charlotte Brontë, 1837 

Invited keynote: (provisional) Professor Alexis Easley, St Thomas University, Minnesota.  

This interdisciplinary conference, to be hosted by the University of Reading in March 2018, aims to explore the wide variety of women’s engagement with literary and theatrical cultures in the long-nineteenth century as authors, performers and audience members. Literary and dramatic pursuits brought women into the public consciousness not only as creators and critics, but also as fans and consumers. This conference develops the transdisciplinary perspectives of fan studies and audience engagement research back into the pre-twentieth century era. Scholars are invited from the fields of literary studies, social history, cultural studies, readership studies, book history, fan studies, and history of leisure and recreation to foster dialogues on the subject of nineteenth-century female creativity. 

Authors Emily Midorikawa And Emma Claire Sweeney will participate in a panel discussion about women’s literary friendships, drawing on their research for their recent book A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf (Aurum Press, 2017) 

We invite proposals of 300 words for 20 minute presentations relating to the conference theme. 

Topics may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Responses to women’s literature – reviews, articles in periodicals and newspapers, letters written to female authors, advice on reading offered to women 

  • Women’s ephemera – scrapbooks, commonplace books, marginalia, correspondence, diaries  

  • Female authors in conversation – intertextual references to other works, correspondence between authors and/or publishers  

  • Gender and performance – theatrical and musical fandoms, public readings of poetry and prose, women’s public speaking 

  • The promotion and marketing for cultural events and publications featuring women, and/or aimed at a female audience 

  • Women and the literature of professionalization – scientific articles, monographs, medical treatises, autobiographies/biographies of prominent female professionals 

  • Gender and performativity – writing under gendered pseudonyms, the ‘feminisation’ of genres such as the gothic and the romance 

Please send your abstracts and a 100 word biographical note to organiser Evan Hayles Gledhill authorshipcelebrityfandom@gmail.com by 30 November 2017 :