Rape in crime fiction March 26 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Berit Astrom, Dept. of Language Studies, Umea University, Sweden

Rape in Crime Fiction – Call for Papers

Katarina Gregersdotter and Berit Åström of Umeå University in Sweden and Tanya Horeck of Anglia Ruskin University in the UK invite contributions for a collection of essays, which will discuss and theorise the various roles that rape plays in contemporary Scandinavian and Anglophone crime fiction.

Since Edgar Allan Poe's trailblazing The Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841, the nature of the crimes, the motivations of the killers, and the description of the victims and suffering portrayed in crime fiction have transformed, mirroring societal changes and concerns. Paedophilia, for example, was unheard of in the classic whodunit of the 1930s and 1940s, but became a staple ingredient in British and American crime fiction of the 1990s.

Of particular interest for this study is the inclusion of rape – of both sexes – in the contemporary crime novel and the diverse functions it may fulfil. Recently, author Jessica Mann has noted the increasing levels of sadistic violence against women in crime novels, especially those written by women. According to Mann, 'The trend cannot be attributed to an anti-feminist backlash because the most inventive fiction of this kind is written by women...They are, one author explained to me, best qualified to do so because girls grow up knowing that being female is "synonymous with being prey"' (The Observer 25 October 2009). In this collection we want to explore what is behind the rise in extreme images of sexual violence in contemporary crime fiction and, in particular, we want to look at how this thematic preoccupation relates to questions of gender, sexuality, emotions and power relationships.

There has been a great deal of international media attention recently on the impact of the new wave of Scandinavian crime fiction, which authors such as Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbø, Håkan Nesser, Kerstin Ekman, Åsa Larsson and Leena Lehtolainen. Are there any discernible differences between the treatment of rape across Scandinavian and Anglophone fiction? Is rape used in similar ways in these novels, for example as a plot device or as a means to shed light on human psychology? How is the reader invited to respond to the images of extreme sexual violence in these texts?

The tremendous international publishing success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy is in no small part due to the power of his female protagonist, Lisbeth Salander. Described by Boyd Tonkin as 'the most original heroine to emerge in crime fiction for many years,' rape is central to Salander's characterization; indeed, it is in response to the sexual crimes committed against her and other women that Salander derives her extraordinary mental and physical strength. What role does rape play in the formation of the contemporary female heroine of crime fiction? What role does it play in the formation of the contemporary male protagonist? How does Larsson's work relate to female crime writers such as Val McDermid, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky?

This groundbreaking collection will explore the connections between contemporary Scandinavian and Anglophone crime fiction by focusing on rape, a subject that has long been central to crime novels but that has yet to be sufficiently explored, especially in a cross-cultural study. In addition to the questions raised above, topics may include, but are not limited to:

•rape and the rise of the female protagonist
•rape, feminism, and agency in the contemporary crime novel
•victimisation and heroism
•the effects of rape on victim and perpetrator
•masochism, sadism and the body
•rape, emotion and affect
•rape and sexual, social and cultural politics.

The essays, which can discuss a single author or novel, as well as apply a wider scope, should be between 4,000 and 6,000 words.

Send your proposal, of no more than 500 words, with a brief biography to katarina.gregersdotter@engelska.umu.se or berit.astrom@engelska.umu.se no later than 26th March 2010. Contributors chosen for inclusion in the essay collection will have until March 2011 to submit their finished essays. Write to the editors with preliminary questions.