Women and Warfare in Contemporary Literature Panel (9/30/2015; 3/17-20 2016) NeMLA Hartford, CT
Women and Warfare in Contemporary Literature
47th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 17-20, 2016
Host Institution: University of Connecticut
"War's destruction brings into being a gallery of particular male and female identities that we tend to compact into two – soldiers on the battle front, women on the home front," writes Jean Bethke Elshtain, noting that "this reduction is a rhetorical amputation that excises many alternatives, male and female." Canonical war literature has often presented women's roles during wartime to be ancillary, highly gendered, and passive, with common representations including soldier's mothers, women waiting, women mourning, women as nurses/caretakers, women as peacekeepers, brave girls doing "men's work" on the home front, and promiscuous women. Ranging from limited to problematic, such representations fail to examine the full breadth of women's participation in and experiences of war including the violence they take part in, their political agency, and the profound trauma they experience as civilian targets of war violence. In recent years, war writing which examines the varied and changing roles women hold during wartime has not only been being published but receiving acclaim. In some examples, Laird Hunt's Neverhome (2014) details the brutal reality of a little-known historical phenomenon – women who fought in the Civil War – his female protagonist is a rough and enterprising soldier who left her husband home to tend the farm while she fought for (and eventually deserted) the Union Army; Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman (2013) examines the life of its misanthropic narrator - a childless, divorced literary translator living in Beirut who defends the privacy of her apartment with an AK-47 for the duration of the Lebanese Civil Wars; and Anita Shreve's Stella Bain (2013) follows the struggle of a shell-shocked nurse who served in the French trenches of WWI as she tries to piece her memory and life together following the war. This panel seeks papers that explore representations of women in contemporary war fiction which challenge gendered stereotypes of women's war experiences; expand understandings of the myriad ways women engage with war as both combatants and civilians; and question how women's identities are alternatively shaped and altered by wartime.
Papers addressing books written in any language and about all international conflicts are welcome, however papers must be presented in English. 300 word abstract and CV should be submitted via the NeMLA website by September 30, 2015.
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
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