#MeToo and Literary Studies: Reading, Writing, and Teaching about Sexual Assault and Rape Culture

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Heather Hewett and Mary Holland
contact email: 

Edited volume--#MeToo and Literary Studies: Reading, Writing, and Teaching about Sexual Assault and Rape Culture

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS    

Editors: Professors Heather Hewett and Mary Holland, SUNY New Paltz

 

REVISED deadline to submit abstracts: December 15

 

The #MeToo movement, created by activist Tarana Burke as a grassroots campaign ten years before it took off on social media, has unleashed a flood of pop culture books on misogyny, rape, rape culture, and sexual assault. Yet to date, no major work considers how the #MeToo movement might enrich our critical and pedagogical literary practices, or how literary and cultural studies might help feminist scholars better understand and marshal the powerful energies of #MeToo.

Scholars and activists agree that legal change is not enough to dismantle the misogyny and rape culture that make sexual assault invisible, pervasive, and normalized. Culture and its artifacts must change before society will start to reflect new norms that do not permit sexual violence. Feminist scholars such as Beth E. Richie (Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation, 2012), Sarah Deer (The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America, 2015), Doug Meyer, Violence against Queer People: Race, Class, Gender, and the Persistence of Anti-LGBT Discrimination (2015), Catharine MacKinnon (Butterfly Politics, 2017), Roxane Gay (Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, 2018), Kate Manne (Down Girl, 2018), and Tamsin Bradley (Global Perspectives on Violence against Women and Girls, forthcoming 2020) examine a range of ideologies and structures interconnected with sexual violence, including misogyny, racism, cis-heteronormativity, rape culture, settler colonialism, incarceration, and war, both in the U.S. and globally. These theoretical perspectives provide important frameworks for understanding #MeToo and sexual violence on a societal and transnational level, and the cultural artifacts that encourage or critique the culture that perpetuates that violence.

This volume aims to ignite a conversation about literature, culture, and sexual assault by gathering essays that bring these areas of inquiry and activism to bear on each other in three ways: 1. rethinking the critical practices we use to produce scholarship and theory about literature and culture in light of this movement; 2. producing rereadings of literature and authors whose participation in or critique of rape culture has yet to be made visible, or whose work can be revisited to shed light on the current moment; 3. proposing pedagogical practices designed to bring the problem of sexual assault and the voices that testify to it into the classroom. We hope this volume will be not only a valuable tool for critics and teachers looking to infuse their work with crucial contemporary issues and the energy surrounding them on social media and in the popular press, but also a tool for real change in the world.

We invite abstracts for papers concerning any of three aspects of literary and cultural studies: 

  • Rethinking critical practices in light of #MeToo. Topics might include
    • Ways in which intersectional analyses of #MeToo narratives might provide another context for interpreting creative work, particularly texts that explore bodily violence, trauma, and survivorship;
    • How #MeToo, and social media more broadly, interacts with traditionally published life narratives and changes the possibilities of creating, sharing, and using personal narratives;
    • Ways in which sexual politics in the university or publishing world inhibit critical work that unmasks misogyny and sexual abuse;
    • Ways in which critics might silence themselves when writing about misogynistic texts or texts that support rape culture;
    • Implications of authorial accusations of sexual abuse for critical readings of authors’ work (eg, Daniel Handler (author of YA Lemony Snicket books), James Dashner (also a YA author), Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie, Leon Wieseltier (literary critic/journalist/editor)). 
  • Feminist rereadings of authors or specific texts whose misogyny, rape culture, and/or scenes of sexual harassment, abuse, or rape have yet to be identified and critiqued by critics, or of authors or specific texts whose inquiry into sexual violence can shed light on the current moment. Topics might include
    • Reconsiderations of canonical authors whose sexual politics have so far escaped scrutiny (eg, Coetzee, Updike; this list may include female authors);
    • Readings of lesser known texts that critique rape culture in effective ways;
    • Readings of work authored by black women, indigenous women, women of color, and colonized women (cis and trans) that provides a lens for understanding sexual violence and #MeToo;
    • Readings of work authored by queer and trans folk that provides a lens for understanding sexual violence and #MeToo;
    • How young adult literature treats sexual assault and rape culture (Erik Cleveland and Sybil Durand published on this topic in 2014);
    • How sexual assault is normalized even in otherwise female-empowering literature, film, or TV;
    • How depictions of sexual assault and rape culture in contemporary texts differ from those in earlier texts, because of changes in the law, cultural changes, political movements, etc;
    • Texts that draw parallels with the current political and social climate of backlash against women’s rights.
  • Expanding pedagogical practices to respond to implications of #MeToo, and to bring the topic of sexual assault into the classroom. Topics might include
    • Using literature that features or interrogates sexual assault as a way of educating college students about rape culture and the patriarchal structures that enable it;
      • for example, one might pair Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” with Boyle’s “Greasy Lake” to contrast the interrogation of rape culture in the former with its invisibility in the latter;
    • Exploring intersectional approaches to literature with sexual violence in ways that teach students to read with attention to the politics of gender, race, class, sexuality, and disability (such as with Sapphire’s novel Push and Lee Daniels’s film Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire);
    • Contextualizing literature in the legal, social, cultural, and/or historical circumstances that enable us to read texts’ implications about sexual politics (as Davis, Jr. does for Tess and contemporary law);
    • Considering the arguments for or against bringing into the classroom the work of writers or performers publicly accused of sexual harassment, for example Louis CK, and Aziz Ansari;
    • Enlisting feminist and gender theory (for example, Susan Bordo, Patricia Hill Collins) to elucidate aspects of misogyny and rape culture, and to consider ways of moving out of them;
    • Pedagogical approaches to teaching survivor narratives and other literature that addresses sexual violence with #MeToo narratives;
    • Addressing questions related to presence and absence, privilege and power in the literature classroom—that is, whose stories get told? Whose stories do not get told? Whose stories get listened to, and whose do not? (For example, what about women who are accused of sexual violence? Trans and gender-nonconforming victims of sexual violence? Sexual abuse of people with disabilities?) 

 

Please submit 500-750 word abstracts, brief c.v., and contact information to both volume editors (hewetth@newpaltz.edu and hollandm@newpaltz.edu) by December 15.

We have communicated with presses in general about this volume, but will approach particular ones once we have received abstracts and have a better sense of the final volume. Given recent publishing trends, we anticipate this project will be very appealing to publishers.