DEADLINE EXTENDED: Critical Perspectives on Stephen King’s It

deadline for submissions: 
April 6, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Whitney May
contact email: 

Edited Collection – Critical Perspectives on Stephen King’s It

Edited by Whitney S. May

The “King of Horror” has confided that inspiration for his 22nd novel It struck, rather unexpectedly (if appropriately), while he crossed a bridge. As his worn boots “trip-trapped” against the wooden planks, reminding him of “The Three Billy-Goats Gruff,” Stephen King toyed with thoughts of trolls and bridges, monsters and crossings; cities, adulthood, and what lurks beneath them both. He found himself unable to shake these connections, mulling them over for three years before committing to the project. Reflecting on the book’s persistent haunting of his thoughts during that time, King reasons: “A good idea is like a yo-yo. It may go to the end of its string, but it doesn't die there; it only sleeps. Eventually it rolls back up into your palm.”

When King’s idea respooled and It debuted in 1986, featuring a monster whose preferred form was a murderous clown rather than a troll, it forever changed the legacy of the literary clown. Then, in 1990, the It TV miniseries visually and heartily cemented this alteration forevermore into the pop-cultural consciousness before retreating into the periphery to enjoy a cult status among horror fans. 27 years later, It returned for a sensational two-part film reboot (2017, 2019). Not only is this reappearance curiously in keeping with Pennywise’s hibernation cycle in the novel, but it also trends alongside a fascinating resurgence of the “evil” clown figure in popular culture. From John Watts’s Clown (2014) to two seasons of American Horror Story (Freak Show from 2014-2015 and Cult in 2017); from Joker (2019) to the clown-laden political imagery surrounding the current U.S. president, Pennywise’s–and It's–reemergence seems peculiarly timely. One must wonder if, like King’s yo-yo illustration, the “evil” clown only ever appears to sleep before returning, continually—perhaps uncomfortably—close at hand.

This collection will examine these pronounced cultural fluctuations by situating Stephen King’s It within the theoretical frameworks that animate it and ensure its literary (and pop-cultural) persistence. One of the key interests of this volume is an exploration of the ways the novel, so like its antagonist, replicates (or disavows) the icons of various canons and categories in order to accomplish specific psychological and cultural work. Although accepted contributions are welcome to discuss its various adaptations, each essay is expected to engage meaningfully with the novel in order to maintain the unity of the overall collection. Potential topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Adaptation analysis that considers the novel (1986), the It American miniseries (1990), the Woh Indian television series (1998), and/or the American reboot films (2017,2019)
  • Transmedia studies
  • Queer theory
  • Labor history
  • Spatiality studies
  • History of capitalism
  • Critical race theory
  • Ecocriticism
  • Genre studies
  • Studies of gender and/or sexuality
  • Waste studies
  • Disability studies/crip theory
  • Medical humanities
  • Circus and sideshow studies and/or clowning
  • Theorizations of the Gothic or, more broadly, of horror
  • Military studies
  • Indigenous studies
  • Fat studies
  • Studies of death and dying
  • Music studies
  • Transportation studies

Please submit a 500-word abstract, as well as a brief, 150-word author bio, as Word attachments by April 6, 2020. Decisions will be made by April 15, 2020. For accepted proposals, final essays of 5,000-8,000 words will be due on August 15, 2020. As this will be a peer-reviewed collection, several rounds of revision and editing may be needed until the final manuscript is ready for publication.

Please send materials, or direct any questions, to Whitney May, wm1104@txstate.edu.