The Female Fantastic, 1860-1930: On the Gendered Supernatural in Texts by Women

Abstract Deadline: February 15, 2016

Upon acceptance, full paper due: July 15, 2016

CFP from NCSA Facebook page

Where realism was the signature feature of earlier Victorian fiction, mid-to-late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century writers increasingly embraced fantastic modes. Rosemary Jackson, in her 1981 Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, inaugurated the now-ubiquitous truism of literary studies that late Victorian fantastic narratives frequently hold strong – and often covertly revolutionary – metaphorical relations to social concerns. Supernatural and symbolic texts are ideal sites for encryption of radical queries and pervasive anxieties related to gender, sexuality, religion, medicine, science, ethnicity, substance abuse and colonialism (to name a few).

This is an especially persistent trait – one manifested and developed in many directions in the Edwardian and early Modernist fantastic. In supernatural thrillers, ghost stories, science fictions, and amorphous fantasias, counter-cultural angsts find substitutive satisfactions and conflated expression. The uncanny effects of fantastic literature enable this; indirection, obscuration and innuendo are ideal mediums for saying-not-saying things. Indeed, whatever energies crescendo in fantastic literature are exactly those that realism – by default – tends to eclipse, reduce, or normalize. Experiments in form and language, from aestheticism to Modernism, only add to the covert power of fantasy.

Given the substantial scholarship dedicated to non-realist representations written by male writers, this book project will specifically explore women-identified writers’ uses of the fantastic from 1860-1930. Writers like Ouida, Vernon Lee, Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, Mary Butts, Elizabeth Bowen, and Sylvia Townsend Warner used narratively polymorphous fantastic sub-genres to dramatize their particularly activist arguments and ideas. This provided the flexibility to explore not only the darkest corners of the external world, but also the deepest subterranean secrets of the mind. For not only did women-identified writers wield these forms’ easy strategic cover to subvert the status quo, but they also used them to explore the gendered psyche’s links to imagination, pathology and creative, personal and erotic agency. In addition to providing dynamic presentations of female and gender-queer subjectivity, these texts also illuminate intriguing and complex relationships to key moments in gender(ed) history.

This collection will be submitted to an already-enthusiastic selective academic press.

We invite submissions that engage in any related issues, including the following:

  • Fantastic figures (ghosts, mummies, werewolves, vampires).
    The evolving genre and forms of the fantastic/supernatural
    Occult communication networks: Annie Besant, Emma Hardinge Britten, Helena Blavasky, and the women of the Golden Dawn
    The shifting meaning/purpose of the female fantastic from mid-century (Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, Florence Marrayat, Charlotte Riddell) to the fin de siècle to the 20th-century
    The transatlantic, global, or colonial supernatural
    The role of the fantastic or otherworldly in conceptualizations of gender and sexuality
    Nationhood, the “fantastic” other, race, and empire
    Nationalism, Fascism, Socialism and other political movements
    Pacificism, war, and trauma
    The fantastic in periodical and print culture
    Visualizing or depicting the fantastic through illustrations, art, performance, photography and film
    Science, pseudo-science, psychoanalysis, medicine, and the supernatural
    Mental illness, Addiction, and Social Deviance
    Relations of Fantastic to Aestheticism, Decadence, Symbolist, Surrealist, Modernist or other movements
    Female-authored sources for and/or reactions to more “canonical” fantastic literature
    Female academic influences on the Classical and/or “Oriental” imagination (Jane Harrison and Margaret Murray, for example)

Abstracts should be 500 words, exclusive of a selected bibliography and brief author’s bio. Final papers should run between 4,000 – 6,000 words (inclusive of endnotes and works cited) and be formatted in current MLA style. Revisions may be requested as a condition of acceptance. Please send all queries to the editors (Dr. Elizabeth McCormick, Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, and Dr. Rebecca Soares) at FemaleFantasticBook@gmail.com.

Submissions Guidelines and Timeframe

By February 15, 2016:
Send one electronic copy of your 500-word abstract to FemaleFantasticBook@gmail.com;
Include a selected bibliography of 10 sources;
and a brief bio of less than 250 words.

By March 15, 2016:
We will notify applicants of our decisions.

By July 15, 2016
Full papers are due.

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