Women and Comedy 1890-1950: 17th-18th September 2022

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Elizabeth von Arnim Society, Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, UK

Is it true that, according to a 2019 study, men are ‘officially funnier than women’?

Recent scholarship of modernism has created increasing interest not only in previously undervalued women writers of the first half of the twentieth century, but in the relationship between modernism and comedy. Historians of women in comedy usually posit a timeline that begins in the 1950s, but literary history tells a different story. This conference will consider how women writers of the period used comedy: the forms they used, how and why they made their readers laugh. What is the relationship between women and comedy? Why is the field of funny such a contested territory when it comes to gender? How is humour used by women and for what purposes?’

We are looking for papers on Anglophone women writers of the period. Topics may include, but are not restricted to:

Comedy and first-wave feminism (the New Woman; suffragettes)

Forms of comedy (satire/farce/irony/parody)

Comedy and class (vaudeville; middlebrow; surrealism)

Types/tones of comedy (dark humour; gentle humour; )

Genres of comedy (comedy of manners; romantic comedy; screwball comedy)

Comedic writing for performance (film; radio; stand-up)

Carnivalesque fiction

Comedy and the transgressive (scatological humour, sexual humour)

Critical and popular reception of comedic writing

We are interested in the work of any writer of the period, canonical or little-known, and either literary or popular/genre texts. Writings considered may be fiction, poetry or prose. Suggested examples include Dorothy Parker, Virginia Woolf, Stella Gibbons, E. M Delafield, D. E. Stevenson, Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth von Arnim, Carolyn Wells, Stevie Smith, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Ella Hepworth Dixon, Mona Caird, Anita Loos, Zora Neale Hurston and Constance Rourke.

Abstracts of 300 words and brief biographical details should be sent to the conference organisers, Nick Turner, Isobel Maddison and Jennifer Shepherd at the address above.