Scenes of Interracial Intimacies: Proposed Panel for BWWC 2016 (deadline: December 20, 2015)

full name / name of organization: 
Deanna Koretsky / Spelman College
contact email: 

Vladimir Nabokov famously expressed that the theme of "a Negro-white intermarriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren" has been "utterly taboo" in Western literature. This was a taboo that British women writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries regularly explored, and even challenged. From the explosively doomed union between Rochester and Bertha Mason in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, to the fetishistic gaze within which the female narrator holds the protagonist of Aphra Behn's Oronooko, to the forced erasure of the happy marriage between Juba and Lucy from Maria Edgeworth's Belinda, British women's fiction represents a range of interests in and encounters with interracial relationships. This panel invites papers interested in any number of "scenes" of interracial intimacies. Papers might consider how ideas about miscegenation influenced literary representations of marriage and the marriage plot, which still tend to be read in terms of gender, kinship, and reproduction, but not race. Beyond fictional representations, papers may address the legal organization of interracial unions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, and/or the role that such laws played within the lives of prominent historical figures, such as Olaudah Equiano, who married an Englishwoman, Susannah Cullen, or Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race heiress whose eligibility to marry was a focus of the recent film Belle (2013). More broadly, papers might consider geopolitical connections between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas— interdependencies that Lisa Lowe has discussed as "global intimacies out of which emerged not only modern humanism, but a modern racial division of labor." Finally, papers might expand Nabokov's notion of the taboo of intermarriage to other "forbidden couples" in order to consider, for example, how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century miscegenation laws periodically reemerge as possible precedents in debates surrounding same-sex marriages.

Please email a 300-word abstract and short bio (in a single attachment) to Dr. Deanna Koretsky ( by December 20. Proposals selected for this panel will then be forwarded to the conference organizers for final approval.

The British Women Writers Conference will take place June 2-5, 2016, at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. For more information, please visit: