The Single Woman (roundtable) - NeMLA - April 7-10, 2011 - New Brunswick, NJ

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Northeast Modern Language Association

Call for Papers
The Single Woman (roundtable session)
Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 7-10, 2011

From the sometimes sad spinster of nineteenth-century literature to the glamorous single gal from Sex and the City, the figure of the single woman has long been haunting the political and literary imagination, yielding a puzzling typology of the uncoupled. We need only ask what makes some unattached women more recognizably single than others to recognize how implicit and unexamined the criteria for singleness in fact are.
In this roundtable, we propose to consider not only the categories that govern our thinking about singleness but also the social norms that singleness itself helps bring into view. For instance, what are the affects and attachments that define the single woman? What is the significance of loneliness and community, of childlessness and motherhood, of queerness, race, or social class in representations of single women? In addressing such questions, we attempt to shift attention from discussions about singleness as a condition or identity to considering singleness as a window onto the implicit imperatives of our social life. This might even involve "singling" the way we think about the social and ourselves.

In proposing this roundtable session we invite a discussion of the status of single women in American literature as well as readings of singleness itself. What makes the tragic and beautiful Lily Bart the iconic single woman of American letters, and the hypersexualized Carrie Bradshaw the exemplar of singleness at the turn of the 21st century? Is there a place for an iconic spinster today? Particularly given this turn, what might be the potential of singleness for a pedagogy and a politics confronted with students' postfeminist beliefs?

Deadline: September 30, 2010

Please send 300-500 word abstracts for a roundtable presentation (<10 minutes) to Kamila Janiszewska,, or Sarah Ensor,