One Hundred Years of Susan Glaspell's "Trifles" - NeMLA 2016 (Deadline, Sept. 30)

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Northeast Modern Language Association - Hartford, CT - March 17-20, 2015

Susan Glaspell's one-act play, "Trifles," premiered in Provincetown in 1916, during an era of historic upheaval in American gender relations. That same year, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control center in the United States and Jeanette Rankin became the first woman elected to the US House of Representatives. The Nineteenth Amendment, of course, would be passed within three years. In the intervening century, the position of women in American society has evolved dramatically – 2016 may see the election of the first woman president – and yet the depiction of gender relations portrayed in "Trifles" remains trenchantly familiar to twenty-first-century readers. Indeed, the contemporary resonance of Glaspell's play may explain why it is among the most commonly anthologized short plays in undergraduate literature texts.

Despite the historical distance between 1916 and 2016, millennial readers continue to find a surprisingly modern quality in "Trifles"'s treatment of gender-related issues, particularly in such elements as the play's representations of the characteristic chauvinism of male authority, the systematic silencing of women's voices and their points of view, the everyday belittlement of activities and spaces associated with women, the divergent thinking styles that differentiate masculine and feminine approaches to problem-solving, the problematic social response to violence against women, and the clandestine means employed by women to establish networks of solidarity outside the systems of male society. The insistence with which these themes connect Glaspell's time to our own provides a startling glimpse into certain underlying social dynamics that have remained intact despite the more visible changes in gender roles that have occurred in American public life over the past hundred years. This panel will examine the enduring relevance of "Trifles," with particular emphasis on strategies for teaching Glaspell's play in contemporary college classes.

To propose a paper, upload a 300-word abstract at Choose the session, "One Hundred Years of Susan Glaspell's Trifles," and follow the instructions to create a user account. The deadline for submitting abstracts is September 30, 2015.