Call for Chapters – Cultural Depictions of the Stepmother: Literature, Stage, and Screen

deadline for submissions: 
April 30, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Jo Parnell – Lexington Books

Announcement: Call-for-Papers 


This call is for abstracts for a scholarly, international edited collection entitled, Cultural Depictions of the Stepmother: Literature, Stage, and Screen. Currently I am seeking a number of academics and professionals in the field who might like to send me an abstract for consideration for inclusion in the book. 


Deadline for abstract submissions:  April 30, 2024


The aim of this scholarly edited collection is to reveal how, in any society, the personal expectations and actual experiences of the stepmother may differ from the societal and cultural expectations and realities of the role. The further aim is to show how the stepmother is perceived in the popular views of a particular society, as demonstrated in the literature, stage, screen, and pop culture narratives, of that society. 


To whatever degree, every culture in the world is different to all others. Yet, in any culture, religious and cultural beliefs are inseparable, intrinsic one to the other, and are important to the traditions, customs, practices and laws of any particular culture or society. One figure that remains consistent in almost every culture, and that attracts the attention, is the stepmother. Regardless of whether a culture is mainly monogamous or polygamous, the stepmother is one of the female figures that are central to the family, the community and hence the society and the culture. Various sources define the stepmother as: a woman who is married to one’s father after the divorce or separation of one’s parents or the death of one’s natural mother; a non-biological female parent who is married to a child’s biological male parent. An added complexity exists: statistics indicate that globally, there has been an increase of children born outside of marriage and who are raised by their cohabiting or non-cohabiting parents. Thus, a stepmother can be a woman who either marries or is the female partner of a man who has biological children resulting from a former marriage, or a previous union with some other woman.  A woman may also become a stepmother by default as in the case of, say, raising the children of a deceased (or otherwise absent) relative, or an orphan or an abandoned child as if her own offspring. Thus, given that cultural and religious, and social traditions, and laws vary widely across the globe, a woman may become the stepmother either by fact or by custom, or by religious or civil law, or by de facto relationship, or by guardianship. In most though not necessarily all cultures, and according to the religious and cultural beliefs and laws of a culture, as well as the civil laws of that country, a man who has been but is no longer married may remarry; and in some other cultures also, a man who is currently married may marry or take a second wife who may be expected to act as stepmother to his biological children by another previous marriage or union that has ended, or by agreement between the child’s/children’s biological parents. 


It is generally understood that whether she is welcomed by her new family or not, a man’s first wife or female partner brings with her some baggage into the life of the man she either weds or cohabits or has a relationship with, and hence into the family into which she marries or enters in some way.  Perhaps this may be more so in the case of the stepmother—a second (or further) wife or female partner of a man who already has a biological child/or children from a former relationship. Sometimes, too, a woman who becomes a stepmother will bring her own biological offspring into the union. It is well documented that parenting can be a difficult task at times. For a stepmother, the challenges, problems, and the difficulties in raising some other woman’s biological children may differ to those experienced by the biological mother. Questions arise: within any culture, what are the implications for a woman who weds or become the female partner of a widower or a divorced or separated man who is actively involved with, or is responsible for, his biological child/children from a previous union? Likewise, what are the implications for a stepmother in a) a polygamous arrangement, and b) for a stepmother in a monogamous relationship? 


Some suggestions for potential contributors to consider, and that could be addressed, may include but not limited to, are: 

  • What are the cultural and social duties and expectations of the stepmother; and what are her personal realities and expectations, as depicted in the popular culture of a particular culture/society? Is it possible to detect differences or sameness between the fictionalized portrayals and the realities and social dictates of that culture? 
  • How do class, ethnicity, culture, race, gender, and possibly history, shape depictions of the stepmother, as indicated in the popular screen, stage, and literary productions of any one particular culture? 
  • What is the range of ways in which the stepmother is represented in the popular/social culture of the various societies? 
  • Are there any powerful cultural or socially historical antecedents for the representations of the stepmother in popular/social culture, as screen, stage, and literary productions? 
  • What are the creators’ and/or the producers’ intentions behind their portrayals of the stepmother; what are their messages for their audiences? 
  • How would we establish the underlying cultural, historical, or production motivations for particular depictions of the stepmother? How often, if at all, are these representations told from the point-of-view of the stepmother herself? Alternatively, how often, if at all, are these representations told from the point-of-view of the stepchild/stepchildren, or the husband or partner of that woman herself? 
  • Is there a difference between the ways in which the stepmother is depicted in film for small and large screen, and between those mediums to the depictions in drama, and to literature? Or in these depictions, is there a reasonably broad consensus between these genres? 


This collection of scholarly essays will make an intervention in the field: it will be the first of its kind to make a comprehensive study of what being a stepmother means to and for the woman, to the family, the community, the culture, and the society to which she belongs. This to investigate whether or not there are characteristic features of the stepmother between cultures that may have either some similarity, or that are totally dissimilar; explore the popular beliefs and popular culture in relation to stepmother-hood in any one or more society/ies; document and record how various eastern and western societies perceive and represent the socially and culturally important figure of the stepmother in screen, stage, and literary works, including folk tales  and pop culture narratives; indicate if there is agreement or difference between the various cultures on how the figure of the stepmother is depicted in popular culture to the viewing/reading audiences; establish a new and dynamic area of theoretical research crossing family studies, women’s studies, cultural studies, social history, gender studies, social studies, and the humanities in general; point the way to possible future cross-disciplinary work through examining various peoples and societies by way of cultural depictions of the stepmother; and permit scholarly consideration of the extent to which the creators and producers of narratives about the stepmother place this figure on the perimeter of society or at its center. 


Submission instructions: 

At this initial stage, in lieu of “chapters,” this proposed work, Cultural Depictions of the Stepmother, calls for extended abstracts for consideration for inclusion in the book. 

  1. The extended abstracts must be more than 1,500 words and less than 2,000 words. Full-length chapters of not less than, say, 7,000 words, and no more than 8,500 words each (including notes but excluding references lists, title of work, and key words), will be solicited from these abstracts.
  2. Please keep in mind that your essay-chapter will be written from your extended abstract. Your abstract will carry the same title as your essay-chapter
  3. To be considered, an abstract must be written in English, and submitted as a Word document. 
  4. When writing your abstract use Times New Roman point 12, and 1.15 spacing. 
  5. At the beginning of your extended abstract, immediately after the title of your work and your name, add 5 to 8 keywords that best relate to your work. 
  6. Use the Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition. 
  7. Since this work is intended for Lexington Books, USA, please use American (US) spelling not English (UK) spelling, and not Australian English spelling.
  8. Use the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 
  9. For this project it is most important to use an impersonal academic voice when writing your abstract, and possibly your chapter later. That is, do not use the teacherly voice (“as we will see…”; “here we see…”; “as it will become clear”; …); and do not use 1st person or the personal voice (I; We will find; We find; You; Us; …). 
  10. Use endnotes not footnotes, use counting numbers not Roman numerals, and keep the endnotes to a bare minimum, working the information into the text where possible. 
  11. Do cite all your work in your extended abstract as you would in a full chapter: a) In the body of the abstract, add parenthetical in-text citations (family name of author and year, and page number/s) (e.g. Smith 2019, 230); b) And fully reference all in-text citations in detail and in alphabetical order, in the References list at the end of your abstract. 
  12. Please send your completed abstract as a Word document attached to an email, by the date given in this call for papers. 
  13. To this same email please also attach, as separate Word documents, the following:
  • Your covering letter, giving your academic title/s, affiliation, your position, and your home and telephone numbers, your home address, and your email contact details. 
  • A short bio of no more than 250 words. 
  • Your C.V., including a full list of your publications and giving the publishing details and dates, and including those in press. 


Editor: Dr Jo Parnell, PhD| Researcher, and Honorary Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Science, College of Human and Social Futures, University of Newcastle, Australia.  


Papers should be forwarded to:  or or