Decorating the Body: Gems, Jewellery, and Body Adornments in Literature

deadline for submissions: 
December 6, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Anne-Marie Evans, York St John University
contact email: 

Submissions are invited for this special edition of Lectora exploring the role and representation of jewellery, gems, and other accessories in literature. Focusing on material culture and the novel, the collection will explore how objects designed to enhance the body operate within a range of different literary texts.

In recent years, the scholarly field of fashion, material culture and literature has grown significantly. Recent writings by Valerie Steele, Katherine Joslin, and Clair Hughes have enriched the scholarly debate, and have worked to develop further links between literature and fashion culture. The focus on one specific aspect of material culture and fashion – jewellery, gems and body adornment – places this collection at the interface of current scholarship. Jean Arnold’s 2011 monograph, Victorian Jewellery, Identity, and the Novel: Prisms of Culture (Ashgate) argues that material objects played an integral role in the social formation of the nineteenth century British Empire. Reading jewels and gems as ‘prisms of culture’, Arnold suggests that jewellery as represented in the work of writers such as Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, and William Makepeace Thackeray function as symbols of innate power and cultural status. This edition of Lectora therefore seeks to extend the discussion to other areas of literature and consider the changing role of jewellery in the literary world.

 There are, of course, many examples of jewellery culture in literature that would be ideal to explore in this collection. Guy de Maupassant’s 1884 short story ‘The Necklace’ uses the diamond necklace of the title to structure this tale of morality and obsession. In Alexandre Dumas’s classic The Three Musketeers (1844) the heroes must retrieve Queen Anne’s jewels from the Duke of Buckingham in order to protect her from the condemnations of the royal court. Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) features one of the most famous diamond thefts in literary history. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), Hester’s wearing of the A and her decoration of it is an empowering moment of creative feminist activism. In addition, pieces of jewellery have played important roles in multiple science-fiction and fantasy texts, from Tolkien’s ‘one ring’ to Rowling’s time-turner necklace, and Collins’s Mockinjay pin.

Submissions are due in December 2019 and should be 40,000 characters Maximum (including spaces). More instructions for authors can be found here.

If you have any queries, please contact the guest editor for this collection, Dr Anne-Marie Evans (a.evans@yorksj.ac.uk)