CFP: [American] Female Violence in Modern American Literature

full name / name of organization: 
Althea E. Rhodes
contact email: 

Call for Papers

Going Wild: Female Violence
in Contemporary American Literature

The pages of literature have been populated with dangerous women
identified by such nominatives as seductress, adulteress, backstabber,
and bitch. Jezebel, Circe, Lady McBeth, Blanche DuBois, Scarlett O’Hara,
Virginia Wolfe, Mrs. Robinson. They tempt, they taunt, they wreak
havoc. Traditionally, these characters have fallen into two categories:
females whose violent behavior is situational and temporary and who can
thereby resume traditional gender roles afterward; or females whose
behavior, once deemed culturally unacceptable, is punished. However, a
third category has arisen, women who have turned to violence to solve
their problems, women in contemporary texts whose violence has become the
subject of awe, speculation, envy, or admiration.

At the close of the twentieth century, the behavior of female literary
characters has undergone a change, with increased aggression and violence
perhaps reflective of actual tendencies in society. Therefore, relative
ideas to consider include but are not limited to:
• Texts which explore the passage from girlhood to womanhood. This
transition is difficult enough, but at the end of the century, it has
become increasingly unsafe. Girls today must navigate an extensive array
of obstacles, such as trauma, abuse, peer pressure, etc. Does the
absence of appropriate--or the presence of inappropriate--female
mentoring result in violent adolescent female behavior typically
associated with boys? If so, is this a normal course of social
evolution? And does such behavior then follow girls into womanhood? As
Deborah M. Horvitz argues in Literary Trauma, there are parallel social
dynamics in literature and society. Are these parallels at work in the
violence in these texts?
• The attractiveness of violence. Is violence sexy? Male heroes
(both sexy and strong) are often expected to “kick ass.” Are heroines
now made of a similar composite, both sexually and physically appealing
to both genders, kicking some ass on their own?
• The contemporary Angel. No longer Coventry Patmore’s 19th
century Angel in the House, female characters post-feminism include those
independent of male protection or provision who can “bring home the bacon
and fry in up in the pan” for themselves, and who, more in keeping with
Virginia Woolf’s revisionary Angel, use whatever force necessary to
establish their independence. Does such empowerment also constitute
loss, though, and if so, is female violence an expression of that loss?
• Female violence and vigilantism. Actual violence against females
now includes one in three who will be sexually assaulted, usually in the
home, before reaching maturity. The end of the twentieth century is a
time marking both the second great wave of feminism and also a second
great backlash against feminist thoughts and ideas in the form of
epidemic levels of domestic violence, incest and rape. Is fictional
female violence symbolic of reactionary social vigilantism? If so, is
this characterization warranted? Reductive? Cathartic?
• Violence as verification. Is fictional female violence
affirming, positive? Can it be a source of strength in spite of
society’s disapproval?

Other possible topics:
• the wrong or missing mother
• evolution of the underdog
• phallic weapons in female hands
• trigger points in verbal or nonverbal cross-gender communication
• female violence as a means of escape
• ways to say no/know
• the boys “club” and female revenge
• good old boys versus bad new girls
• no way to bridge troubled waters
• season of the witchâ€"powerful women as supernatural

We invite papers which analyze female violence in American fiction,
drama, television or film 1970s to the present. We welcome a variety of
theoretical approaches; however, all essays should concentrate on
character analysis. Formatting will follow MLA requirements and style.
Please submit preliminary abstracts of approximately 750 words to Dr.
Althea E. Rhodes,, and Ms. Leisa Belleau, by March 30, 2009.

Final essays of 4000-6000 words are projected to be due by midnight
January 15, 2010, submitted electronically, Microsoft Word attachments
preferred. Essays selected for inclusion will also require author
information, including full name, contact information (email, postal
address, and phone) and a 200-word biography for contributor’s notes.

Emails with questions are welcome.

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Received on Sat Feb 07 2009 - 20:49:30 EST