Seminar at the ESSE 2022 Conference, Mainz, Germany

deadline for submissions: 
February 28, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
European Society for the Study of English (ESSE)
contact email: 

Women’s Writing and their Writings on Writing

The area of research delineated under the seminar Women Writers and their Writings on Writing is that of women novelists having inscribed their fictional and non-fictional contributions in English within the frame of postmodernism. Simultaneously using and abusing the canon, writers like Margaret Atwood, Antonia Susan Byatt, Ursula Le Guin, Doris Lessing, or Angela Carter, to name but a few, make their voices heard via metafiction, literary theory and criticism, newspaper articles, reviews, lectures and recorded/televised interviews – demarches which are quintessentially technical, therefore automatically/stereotypically associated with men.

Flourishing in the 1970-1980s, the theoretical writings on self-reflexivity in literature that have remained mainstays in the critical approaches to postmodernism (and not only) have been quoted and replicated ever since. In its holding a mirror for literature to see itself as literature, and for the reader to be aware of its fictionality, metafiction has pervaded contemporary writings. Its peculiarities, which raised eyebrows in the dawns of the genre, and later, in early postmodern fiction like that authored by Borges, Barth or Fowles, are now becoming almost normative in the construction of the fictional text, which, we believe, requires a thorough critical reassessment. This is why this seminar aims to bring together various case studies, with a view to outline a renewed and updated theory on metafiction. Ideally, the contributions will jointly prove that the anxiety of authorship generated by the lack of models for women writers in the Victorian age and their perilous propensity towards specific gender roles – already famously deconstructed by Virginia Woolf a century ago in A Room of One’s Own – is now part of the ancient ‘herstory’ of literature and that women writers of the second half of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century are now on equal footing with their male colleagues in point of complexity of styles, techniques, thematic content and, not least, in point of their being successful on the literary market. Construed as one of the most complicated narrative modes at the disposal of contemporary writers, metafiction, copiously employed by women authors, is a niche identified for a research that leaves aside the second-wave feminists’ complaints on the secondariness of women’s writing, and asserts instead, in a bold fourth-wave feminist manner, that contemporary literature produced by women may and will stand the tests of time, complexity and quality.

Therefore, we welcome abstracts of proposed presentations aimed at: discussing (post)postmodern women’s writing and identifying the embedded metacritical and metafictional practices; assessing the evolution of women’s writing from its patterns of domesticity to complex discursive structures which produce new meanings and propose solutions to contemporary issues; updating the extant theories on metafictional literary writings.

The volume comprising chapters based on the presentations delivered at the conference will be proposed for publication to a major academic press.

Michaela Praisler, University of Galati, Romania,
Vladislava Gordić Petković, University of Novi Sad, Serbia,
Oana-Celia Gheorghiu, University of Galati, Romania,