Cat Ladies and Lone Wolves: Singleness as Viewed through the Lens of Media

deadline for submissions: 
September 20, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association Conference 2022
contact email: 

Our panel invites papers that approach television and film from the emerging interdisciplinary field, Singles Studies. We are interested in papers that critique well-worn tropes of the single in television and film and papers that engage with more complex and nuanced single characters who help us to rethink the single person and singleness.

In his 2012 book, Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled, literary scholar Michael Cobb writes that the single “tends not to have its own language, its own way of being articulated and understood.” As more people remain single, we can look to film and television to inquire into whether representations of singleness rely on well-worn tropes of the single that present him/her/them as lonely, immature, antisocial, and incomplete, or reflect the complex and varying lived experiences of the single. Our panel invites papers that approach television and film from the emerging interdisciplinary field, Singles Studies. Informed by pioneering voices in this field (Michael Cobb, Bella DePaulo, Rachel Moran, and others), we are interested in the “fresh way of analyzing and understanding” (DePaulo) that results when we apply a Singles Studies methodology to our critique of media. Are singles in television and film still reductively presented as the cat lady, the lone wolf, the spinster librarian, or the bachelor playboy? By interrogating single characters that adhere to cultural stereotypes, we might investigate the ways in which singleness continues to be read as failure, while romantic partnership continues to be associated with normalcy, adulthood, and fulfillment. Which films or TV series incorporate nuanced representations of single characters and how do these characters help us to rethink the single person and singleness? What new questions arise when we look at characters through a Singles Studies lens? Papers may engage with the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and singleness. This panel explores past and current iterations of singleness in television and film.