CFP: Rooms at the Top: Attic Spaces in Literature (9/15/05; NEMLA, 3/2/06-3/5/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Rita Bode
contact email: 

CFP: Rooms at the Top: Attic Spaces in Literature (9/15/05; NEMLA, 3/2/06-3/5/06)

NEMLA conference, Philadelphia, PA, March 2-5, 2006
CFP for approved panel: Rooms at the Top: Attic Spaces in Literature
Queries/proposals by September 15th to panel chair, Rita Bode: (please also see below).

When Gilbert and Gubar titled their influential study on "the woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination, "The Madwoman in the Attic," they popularized, in feminist critical discourse, the attic as the site of female oppression. Charlotte Bronte's maddened Bertha Mason subverts the mainstream view of the domestic hearth and home as the special realm of female influence and self-realization, by showing its subjection to patriarchal power. Rochester's male control of the domestic sphere marginalizes the female presence, relegating it to the house's extremities. But the maddened Bertha is not the only female character to spend time in attics. In Villette, Bronte's Lucy Snowe, for instance, experiences her stay in the attic of Madam Beck's school as empowering, leading directly to her triumphant public performance in the school play. In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard observes that "we always go up the attic stairs. . . .They bear the mark of ascension t!
 o a more tranquil solitude" (1958; Boston: Beacon Press, 1994; 26). In further contrast to Bertha, other female characters, like George Eliot's Maggie Tulliver and Alcott's Jo March, actively seek out the attic, claiming it as their own personal space and transforming it into a site of liberation rather than confinement. If attics in literature sometimes signify female madness and incarceration, they also at other times correspond to Virginia Woolf's vision for "a room of one's own" in which space assumes agency for female artistry. Literary attics, however, are also sometimes inhabited by men, offering an avenue of contrast for defining, and refining, the concept of the attic as gendered space. Despite their disturbing isolation or reassuring solitude, attics, moreover, exist in telling relationship to the rest of the fictional houses, and its inhabitants, to which they belong. Through windows, and views, or, just as significantly, the lack thereof, of gardens, woods, and !
 skies, attics offer further significant material for critical !
 as they extend into the exterior spaces outside their houses.

This panel seeks to explore and expand the site of the attic as charged female space in Victorian and early 20th century British and American literature. It invites 1*2 page proposals, including a brief biography, by September 15th, that analyse attic spaces not only in classic novels but also in popular novels, sensational novels, slave narratives, and other genres, from a variety of critical perspectives.

Email submissions preferred:, but hard copies can be sent to:
Prof. Rita Bode,
Department of English Literature
Trent University in Oshawa @ UOIT
2000 Simcoe Street North, Room C111
Oshawa, Ontario L1H 7K4

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Received on Fri Jul 08 2005 - 10:25:54 EDT