To Prove a Villain: On the Performativity of “Evil” Characters in Anglophone Literature

deadline for submissions: 
July 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
University of Gafsa, Tunisia

Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'Content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions.
I'll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall;
I'll slay more gazers than the basilisk;
I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,
And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.

(Henry VI Part III, 3.2)

The emphasis on “the performativity of texts” (Skinner x) has now become common in literary studies. “The notion of literature as performative” (Culler 96) is now entrenched. It pervades many of the recent studies of the theory of literature. This is why the concept of performance is no longer confined to literary forms that are traditionally written to be performed on the stage, the pulpit or the podium, like drama, songs and sermons. Every form of literature can be considered as performative. Moreover, the works of Judith Butler, Quentin Skinner, Richard Schechner, Jonathan Culler, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty and others have shown that performativity characterizes all the aspects of literature. The writing, marketing, reading and analysis of literature are performative. It is quite common to describe them as acts, esp. the act of reading. This performativity extends the concept of literature irrevocably beyond the boundaries of the written text. It also proves that we need to cope with the looseness of the term literature that can no longer be confined to the classical genres. Many traditional and new (non)-discursive practices started to fall into the category of literature, from which they have long been excluded.  Probably the most intriguingly appealing characters in traditional and contemporary literature, the representations of evil characters – be they villains in drama, antagonists in fiction and cinema, bosses in video games or corrupt public figures in satirical writings – has always been connected with the notion of performance. Evil characters, real or/and fictional, are – for the most part – defined by their deeds. This is why the notion of performance can be quite helpful in understanding them. To further contribute to the articulation of this interconnection between performativity and the literary representation of evil characters, we are seeking detailed proposals for a collection of academic essays entitled:

To Prove a Villain: On the Performativity of “Evil” Characters in Anglophone Literature

The proposals may address one or more of the following topics or other relevant topics within the scope of the literature written (conceived, developed, created, etc.) in English:

-          Villains and villainy in literature

-          Characterization of the evil characters

-          Representations of crimes and evil deeds in literary discourses

-          The role of evil characters in shaping the plot

-          Villains and evil doers in mythology and religious literature

-          The secular villain   

-          Magic, sorcery and devilish arts

-          Technology and evil

-          Evil in performance studies

-          Visibility and invisibility in evil characters

-          Temptation, seduction and the “virality” of evil

-          Evil characters in children literature

-          Ethnicity, gender, sexuality, difference and the evil character

-          Eroticizing evil (characters)

-          Evil characters in Gothic literature

-          Vampires, undead and other creatures as evil characters

-           Dystopia, tyranny, ideology and “evil” leadership

-          Satire

-          Spectacular evil

-          Graphic depiction of evil characters in visual literature

-          The cult of literary villains (e.g. Dracula)

-          Rehabilitation of literary and historical villains

-          Physical portrayal of evil characters

-          Evil characters in their own words (soliloquies, autobiographies, dialogues, etc.)

-          Adaptations of literary works

Please send your proposals along with a short bio as Word attachments to the following email: by July 30th, 2018

This email only accepts formal proposals

For queries and for further information please contact Dr. Nizar Zouidi (University of Gafsa, Tunisia):

The chapters should be from 5000 to 8000 words in length and should be formatted according to the guidelines that will be provided after the abstracts are accepted by the peer reviewers. Upon completion, the chapters will be peer reviewed again and proofread by the committee in order to ensure their compliance with the publisher’s requirements. However, no change shall be made without the explicit consent of the authors.