Loose Dresses, Loose Women: Pedagogies of Harlots and Whores from Hogarth to the Haus of Gaga (NeMLA panel)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

Loose Dresses, Loose Women:nPedagogies of Harlots and Whores from Hogarth to the Haus of Gaga

Chairs Tommy Mayberry (Office of Teaching and Learning, University of Guelph) and Debra Bourdeau (College of Arts and Sciences, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide)

Slammerkin, noun, eighteenth century, of unknown origins. 1. A loose gown. 2. A loose woman.” This epigraph is one with which Emma Donoghue opens her historical fiction novel Slammerkin (2000) that explores clothing, identity, and prostitution in the mid-to-late 1700s with its historical character Mary Saunders. Over three centuries after Mary learns rules of the trade such as “Clothes are the greatest lie ever told,”[1] RuPaul shares on Video Soul (1988), “When I first started doing drag, you know, I was enamored – just like Dolly Parton – with hookers. I mean, hookers wear the best clothes, don’t they?”[2] Of course, today, RuPaul is leading an empire of drag artists wearing the best clothes on his reality TV show. Three hundred years ago, William Hogarth, eighteenth-century artist, satirist, and social critic, explored fundamentals of bodies and beauty (his famous S-curve in The Analysis of Beauty) and the cultural place and importance of sex workers in society (in his A Harlot’s Progress), and Lady Gaga’s entire creative enterprise celebrates and empowers social justice through music and aesthetics; this panel, then, seeks papers that consider the pedagogical influence harlots and whores, hookers and sex workers, have in and on our society today from the streets of the 1700s to the stages of our world right now.

We are interested in papers that explore the pedagogical influence of clothing and sex work (i.e., what they can teach us, and what we can learn from them) via interconnections and ideas across and between clothing, sex work, and:

  • social justice
  • performance
  • reality TV, film, media
  • bodily autonomy
  • drag culture
  • fashion and costuming
  • rap music and the “ho”
  • questions of empowerment vs. degradation
  • money, power, and privilege
  • race, ethnicity, and globality

Abstracts (300 words max.) are due online by September 30th, 2019. Please submit abstracts online at https://cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/18288.

For inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact either Tommy Mayberry (tmaybe@uoguelph.ca) or Debra Bourdeau (taylo13f@erau.edu).

[1] Donoghue, Emma. Slammerkin. HarperPerrenial, 2000, pp. 78, 79.

[2] RuPaul qtd. in Seth Clark Silberman, “Why RuPaul Worked: Queer Cross-Identifying the Mythic Black (Drag Queen) Mother,” in Territories of Desire in Queer Culture: Refiguring Contemporary Boundaries, edited by David Alderson and Linda Anderson, Manchester UP, 2000, 175.