Not-So-Dead Women: Renegotiating Femininity and Death in Literature and Pop Culture

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA 2020 (Boston)
contact email: 

Women’s corpses, such as those of Snow White or Ophelia, are often depicted as a beautiful and passive objects, which has led scholars to posit cultural reflections concerning tacit assumptions in the link between femininity and death. In relation to modern literature and art, scholars such as Elizabeth Bronfen (Over Her Dead Body), Elizabeth Grosz (Volatile Bodies), Sarah Goodwin (Death and Representation) argue that dead women are an nexus of morbidity, alterity, and beauty that unconsciously encapsulates the anxiety of the inexpressible event of death, and, as such, dead women are given the value of the “other” in the most macabre fashion.

However, there are unique iterations of dead women who act in body or voice from beyond the grave and disrupt the trope of the passively beautiful (or completely hidden) female corpse. Whether it be assessing the agency of an undead corpse (such as iZombie), the power of a resurrected female (as in Beloved or Buffy the Vampire Slayer), or adaptations of female death figures/deities (Persephone, Hella, etc.), this panel invites papers that explore new and renegotiated paradigms in the active role of dead women and the link between femininity and death.

Papers for this panel are invited to reflect the following questions in 15-20 minute presentations:

-How do expressions of feminine death change across temporal representations?

-What do these changes reflect of cultural values and assumptions?

-What can or does the active and agential dead female figure represent?

-How do these figures demonstrate ethical, spatial, emotional, and embodied perspectives on death, dying and remembrance?

-How does the voice of a dead woman influence or shape a text in a unique way?

-What sort of space is given to a dead female figure (physical, emotional, spiritual)? How do these spaces matter in globalized contexts?

Submit Abstracts to the NeMLA portal: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/18044

Contact Forrest Johnson (York University) with any questions regarding the CFP.