A Step Closer to Heaven: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and Theologies of the Afterlife. An Anthology of Essays.

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Emily Hamilton-Honey and Jennifer McFarlane Harris
contact email: 

Call For Papers


A Step Closer to Heaven:

Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and Theologies of the Afterlife. An Anthology of Essays.



Jennifer McFarlane Harris, Xavier University

Emily Hamilton-Honey, SUNY Canton


Contact e-mails:

mcfarlaneharrisj@xavier.edu, hamiltone@canton.edu




While a great deal of scholarly work has been done to recover the writing of nineteenth-century American women, and sentimental fiction has become its own scholarly category, the explicitly theological nature of these texts is often overlooked. Even spiritual autobiographies and sermons are too often read through the lens of religion as only a coping mechanism for women to deal with racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression, when these texts are also expressions of the lives and dynamic minds of women who developed sophisticated, systematic spiritual and textual approaches to the divine, to their denomination(s) or religious tradition(s), and to the mainstream culture around them.


Authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Julia Foote, Martha Finley, Amanda Berry Smith, Isabella Alden, Zilpha Elaw, Susan Warner, Julia Collins, Maria Ruiz de Burton, S. Alice Callahan, Maria Cummins, and others wrote not only as a commercial venture, not only to survive, but also to have a voice in the moral debates that were consuming churches and national politics: social issues like slavery, temperance, suffrage, the basis of marriage, domestic abuse, divorce, child custody, land ownership, missionary ventures, and colonialism. Each of them, regardless of religious sect, believed that religion was necessary to maintain a morally healthy nation – even while they put forward ideas about revising their particular religion. Though they each believed in different ways to reach the afterlife, they were all working to make earth a step closer to heaven, to convert others to a life after moral reform. They sought to level race, level social class, level gender differences, and create social change in ways that were unprecedented.


This anthology seeks to put lived theologies at the center of discussion of nineteenth-century women’s writing. Women do not simply apply, or live out, theologies authored by men. Rather, this anthology is grounded in the radical notion that the theological principles crafted by women and derived from women’s experiences, intellectual habits, and organizational capabilities are foundational to American literature itself.


Please send proposals of 250-300 words and a brief bio to Emily Hamilton-Honey and Jennifer McFarlane Harris at the e-mails above. Deadline for proposals is March 1, 2019; finished chapters of 4,000-8,000 words will be due by August 15, 2019.