CFP: Women and Death in the Nineteenth Century (2/1/06; collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Sheri Weinstein
contact email:

Death Becomes Her:
Cultural Narratives of Women and Death
in Nineteenth-Century America

According to Edgar Allan Poe, "the death of a beautiful woman is,=20
unquestionably, the most poetic subject in the world." Throughout=20
nineteenth-century American literature and culture, women are often=20
popularly represented as not only harbingers of life, but also keepers of=20
death. The nineteenth century had particularly fascinating rituals for=20
death, almost always centered around feminine artifact, sexuality and=20
performance=ADfor example, mourning hair jewelry and clothing, elaborately=
drawn-out mourning etiquette for widows and spirit mediumship. Furthermore,=
death itself is often presented in such a way as to seem markedly if not=20
problematically feminized: it is sensational (the penny press=92s obsessive=
coverage of a dead prostitute) and sentimental (the tragic heroine's=20
literary deathbed scene); it is beautiful and noble (the sacrifice of the=20
woman=92s life as her most shining moment); and, overall, it is a source of=
great drama (just as any "good" woman is).

Women's abilities to die beautifully, to mourn properly, and to connect=20
with the dead psychically all speak to an important intersection of=20
cultural values and aesthetic principles in and of nineteenth-century=20
American life. Why are the deaths of women so prolifically, if artfully,=20
rendered? What values are behind the cultural association of women with=20
death? Why are women collectors of the artifacts and ephemera of death? Why=
and how is death feminized?

We invite all essays that consider the aesthetic, cultural, literary and=20
political currency of connecting women to death and connecting death to the=
feminine. Possible focuses include analyses of women's deathbed scenes,=20
suicides, murders, funerals, and autopsies in literature and other=20
nineteenth-century media.

Abstracts or completed articles will be accepted for=20
consideration. Abstracts should be 250-500 words long; articles should be=
15- 25 pages; either document should be accompanied by a c.v. Please=20
include copies of any photographs or graphics that will accompany your work=
or a description thereof.

Send proposals electronically to either=20
<> or=20
<> or send two copies via=20
U.S. mail: to:

Sheri Weinstein and Elizabeth Dill

Department of English

Kingsborough Community College, City University New York

2001 Oriental Blvd.

Brooklyn, NY 11235

The deadline is February 1, 2006.

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Received on Wed Nov 16 2005 - 10:37:26 EST

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