The Queen of Suspense: A Patricia Highsmith Symposium 2019 - Poet of Apprehension

deadline for submissions: 
September 13, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Sally Joan Jones (PhD and Visiting Lecturer, University of Chester)
contact email: 

The Queen of Suspense: A Patricia Highsmith Symposium

2019 – Poet of Apprehension

University of Chester, Saturday 7th December 2019


Following the success of Queen of Suspense 2018, an international, interdisciplinary one-day symposium hosted by the University of Chester, we are pleased to announce the return of this event to Chester on Saturday 7th December 2019. This inclusive symposium welcomes paper proposals from academics, writers, independent researchers and postgraduates across all disciplines of humanities, arts and social sciences. Places are also available for non-presenting delegates.

From the publication of her first novel, Strangers on a Train (1950) The twentieth-century American author Patricia Highsmith wrote prolifically for nearly half a century, in a writing career which spanned and reflected a period of great social, geo-political and economic change. However, despite being well-served by biography and the silver screen, and routinely cited by respected authors and critics (notably Graham Greene and John Sutherland) as an important and influential literary figure, there is still, proportionally, very little serious scholarly engagement with her hugely significant contributions to literature.

Regardless of the fickle oversights of that ephemeral thing, the canon, Patricia Highsmith can nevertheless be credited with shaping the sub-genre of modern suspense fiction as we now know it (along of course with the likes of Francis Iles, Dorothy L. Hughes, Celia Fremlin, Shirley Jackson, Robert Aickman et al). It seems fitting, then, that academia finally acknowledges her significant literary output, and celebrates and engages with the prickly, contradictory, enigmatic and problematic persona of an individual who has been so monumental in shaping the climate of modern fiction. The Queen of Suspense welcomes proposals for papers related to any aspect of Highsmith scholarship. The theme for this year’s symposium will be ‘Poet of Apprehension’, and we will particularly welcome innovative, unexplored approaches to reading her work around this culturally relevant focus. 

The presentation time for papers will be 20 minutes (30 minutes negotiable by advanced request). Proposals may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:


National identity and identity in relation to place

Socio-historical and geopolitical context

Identity, class, social performance and performativity

Gender and LGBTQI+ identities

Constructions of masculinity/femininity


Others, Othering, Otherness

Material culture/consumerism

Colonialism, Postcolonialism and Empire

Comparative literature and intertextualities

Literary influence and literary legacy

Satire and irony

Adaptation: Highsmith on screen/stage


Religion, superstition and philosophy

Original and the copy: forgery and impersonation


We look forward to welcoming new and returning faces to this event, further expanding an enriching the emerging field of Highsmith scholarship, and facilitating a dynamic, creative space for thinking, collaboration and networking.

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to Sally Jones and Jen Davis ( by 13th September 2019. Abstracts should include your name, email address, and affiliation, as well as the title of your paper. Please feel free to submit abstracts presenting work in progress as well as completed projects.

A limited number of spaces are available for delegates wishing to attend without presenting. Please email before the deadline for booking information.