Special Issue of Refractory: a journal of entertainment media - ‘Beyond Nostalgia: Discomfort and Difference in Stranger Things’

deadline for submissions: 
February 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Amanda Howell/Griffith University
contact email: 

CFP: Special Issue of Refractory-Stranger Things


Stranger Things (Netflix, Duffer Brothers, 2016-17), a series inspired in large part by the creators' affection for the vintage 1980s fictions of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, is generally discussed in terms of nostalgia. New York Times reviewer James Poniewozik, for instance, suggests that the series appeals to the ‘allure of simpler, innocent times’, a reference to how it lovingly evokes Spielberg's ‘cozy home world of cuddly beasts and warmhearted social relations’ and creates a storyworld that confirms Stephen King's summary of horror as being ‘as conservative as an Illinois Republican . . . its main purpose. . .to reaffirm the virtues of the norm’ (2016; Ryan and Kellner 1988, 258;1981/2011, 421). And yet, the series likewise insists on and is deeply invested in an alterity that cohabitates with what Nancy Wheeler, the 1980s girl-next-door character, drunkenly reviles as the ‘bullshit’ of cozy, repressed, suburbia (2.2 'Trick or Treat, Freak’). With an eye to the central role played in the series by weirdness and weirdos, this Special Issue focuses on difference, especially gendered difference, as a key site where the series never fully embraces – nor actually forecloses – the nostalgia aimed at rebuilding ‘the mythical place called home’ (Boym 2001, 50).


Refractory: a journal of entertainment media invites essays for this special issue on Stranger Things titled: ‘Beyond Nostalgia: Discomfort and Difference in Stranger Things’.


Within the general focus on difference and discomfort in Stranger Things, intersectional areas of analysis include, but are not limited to:


  • Gender
    • Representations of women in Genre: Horror and Sci Fi
    • The cinematic Bildungsroman (male or female coming of age)
    • Masculinity in crisis
    • Monstrous mothers
    • The body and embodiment
  • Race and Otherness
    • Monsters/Upside Down as metaphors for otherness
    • Suburbia
    • Considerations of characters of color: Lucas Sinclair, Kali
  • Intertextuality
    • Steven Spielberg, Joss Whedon, Stephen King
    • Ghost Busters
    • The Goonies
    • Poltergeist
    • Alien/Aliens
    • Firestarter
  • Family, blended family, friendship, kinship
  • Evil corporations/ corrupted government/ the Military-Industrial Complex
  • The Cold War and ‘Reaganomics’
  • Trauma, memory, and grief
  • Suburban and domestic violence.


150-word abstracts should be emailed to lucy.baker@griffith.edu.au, a.howell@griffith.edu.au, and Rebecca.Kumar@morehouse.edu 1 February 2018. (For your email, we ask that you please use the subject line Refractory Special Issue abstract and that along with your abstract you include a brief biographical note. We would also appreciate your saying whether you would be willing to serve as a referee for one of the other papers submitted to the Special ssue.)


For those papers accepted for the Special Issue, drafts of 3,000 to 8,000 words will be due 1 July 2018, with referee reports returned to authors 1 September and final drafts due to the editors 1 October for publication in December.


Refractory is a refereed journal published by Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia. http://refractory.unimelb.edu.au/refractory-home/



Lucy Bakeris a PhD Candidate in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University (Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia), her thesis (under examination as of January 2018) focuses on regendering in adaptations and fanwork. She is the author of ‘Girl!Version: The Feminist Framework for Regendered Characters’ in the Journal of Fandom Studies, and also has published and forthcoming articles and book chapters on the television series Penny Dreadful (SHOWTIME 2014-16) , Elementary(CBS 2012-present), the New Zealand horror mockumentary film What We Do In The Shadows (Waititi 2014), and the transmedia storyworlds of Mattel’s Monster High fashion doll franchise (2010-present).

Amanda Howell is a Senior Lecturer in screen studies at the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, Griffith University (Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia). Persistently interested in ‘body’ genres, especially horror, action, the war film and the musical, her publications have appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Continuum, Genders, Genre, Gothic Studies, Refractory and Screening the Past. Her most recent major work is the monograph, A Different Tune: Popular Film Music and Masculinity in Action (Routledge 2015).

Rebecca Kumar PhD is an Assistant Professor at Morehouse College (Atlanta, Georgia), specializing in Cultural Studies, giving particular attention to representations of race, gender, and sexuality in literature and film. She teaches Composition, World Literature, Early American Literature, and Literary Theory. She is the author of ‘Quiet Colonialism: Graham Greene's The Quiet American’ (Thirty Years After: Essays on Vietnam War Literature, Film, and Art; 2009) and the forthcoming essays, ‘”Do you Love me, master?”: The Erotics and Politics of Servitude in The Tempest (Early Modern Black Studies: A Critical Anthology), ‘”Let Yo Booty Do that Yoga”: Cross Cultural Feminism, or Black Goddess Politics’ (The Scholar & Feminist Online), and ‘Thugs, Mules, and Terrorists: Racial Profiling and Solidarity in the Age of Trump’ (The Comparatist).