Call for Papers

Deborah Epstein Nord

Keynote Address: "Outward Bound"

Although we know that the nineteenth century produced many intrepid female travelers, explorers, and missionaries, we still think of the Victorian woman as in some way fundamentally housebound. Certainly we think of the great nineteenth-century novels written by women as explorations of the domestic-the sitting-room culture that Virginia Woolf describes as the source of women's fiction in A Room of One's Own, the private sphere of courtship, marriage, and the home. Woolf's Mrs. Ramsay, one of the last great avatars of Victorian womanhood in British fiction, adventures solely in her imagination, finding "limitless experience" in mind-travel over Indian plains and Roman churches while seated alone in the dark after her children have gone to bed.

I want to challenge this enduring image of nineteenth-century women both by complicating the idea of home as it is represented in the novel and by underscoring the penchant of literary heroines for venturing forth, indeed, for engaging in almost constant motion. The complex dialectic between domestic life and travel in nineteenth-century fiction by women and the equivocal, often repellant, nature of home points to a body of work, by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot, that is insistently outward bound.

Deborah Epstein Nord teaches in the English Department at Princeton University, where she also served for many years as director of the Program in the Study of Women and Gender. She is the author of The Apprenticeship of Beatrice Webb, Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation, and the City, and the forthcoming Gypsies and the British Imagination, 1807-1930 and editor of a scholarly edition of John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies. Professor Nord currently serves on the advisory board of NAVSA (North American Victorian Studies Association).

Thursday evening keynote speaker.

Ellen Bayuk Rosenman

Keynote Address: "Edith Simcox: Narrating Same-Sex Desire"

Edith Simcox was a pioneering activist for working women, the founder of a shirt-making cooperative, a respected amateur anthropologist, and an adoring, erotic, painfully frustrated admirer of George Eliot. She wrote two texts that she considered autobiographical but that break dramatically with the conventions of autobiography and the bildungsroman: Autobiographer of a Shirtmaker and Episodes in the Lives of Men, Women, and Lovers. In very different ways, these works register the heteronormativity of these accepted genres and the difficulty of expressing same-sex desire through the story of the development of a unified subject.

Ellen Bayuk Rosenman is professor of English at the University of Kentucky. Her most recent book is Unauthorized Pleasures: Accounts of Victorian Erotic Experience (Cornell 2003), and she has published on George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, and Virginia Woolf. She is currently co-editing an essay collection on Victorian maternity with Claudia Klaver of Syracuse University and beginning a book-length project on Victorian working-class literature.

Friday afternoon speaker.

Laura Rosenthal

Keynote Address: "Eliza Haywood’s Discrepant Cosmopolitanism"

Eliza Haywood’s place in literary history has remained as elusive as her politics. But while few critics dispute her significance anymore,the failure of her writing to fit comfortably into narratives of the emergence of realism, individualism, and modern gender identity still prevents us from fully appreciating her perspective and her project. In this discussion, I will suggest that even though Haywood clearly influenced the period’s more familiar novelists, we can more productively understand her work as part of an ongoing alternative mode rather than a doomed, anachronistic embrace of romance that would ultimately give way to realism. To highlight this difference and its ideological significance, I place Haywood’s fiction in two relevant early eighteenth-century contexts: first, the popular travel narrative and travel fiction (especially Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders); and second, the distress in the period around unmarried women in general and prostitutes in particular. Canonical “realist” fiction tends to explore, with various degrees of ambivalence, national reproduction through fertile families and fertile colonies. The alternative visible in Haywood and powerfully articulated later in the Gothic, however, explores female alternatives to reproduction and political alternatives to imperial expansion. Thus where Defoe and Richardson send excess women to colonies, Haywood (and later the Gothic) sends them to convents. We might productively think of Haywood’s alternative as a “discrepant cosmopolitanism,” a phrase I borrow from James Clifford to distinguish Haywood’s fascination with Catholic, Eastern, and even “pre-Adamitical” ladies from the more familiar Enlightenment citizens of the world. Although not without its own forms of elitism, Haywood’s early fiction explores possibilities of cosmopolitan resistance to the period’s consolidation of Protestant nationalism, colonial expansion, and emergent bourgeois gender identity.

Laura Rosenthal is a Professor of English at the University of Maryland, specializing in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British literature and culture. Her most recent book, Infamous Commerce: Prostitution in Eighteenth-century British Literature and Culture (June 2006) explores representations of prostitution in eighteenth-century culture. Professor Rosenthal's groundbreaking work on gender and authorship and prostitution make her an ideal match for the British Women Writers Conference. Some other publications include the collection Monstrous dreams of reason: body, self, and Other in the Enlightenment (2002), edited with Mita Choudhury; Playwrights and plagiarists in early modern England: gender, authorship, literary property (1996); "Oroonoko: Reception, Ideology, and Narrative Strategy" in Derek Hughes's and Janet Todd's The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn. (2004); and several articles on women and performance in the eighteenth century. Professor Rosenthal currently serves on the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC) of the MLA.

Saturday afternoon speaker.

Yolanda Pierce

Yolanda Pierce is an associate professor as the University of Kentucky, specializing in African American literature, specifically slave narratives and spiritual narratives, as well as women's literature and gender studies. Her recent publications include Hell Without Fires: Slavery, Christianity & the Antebellum Spiritual Narrative (2005); "Her Refusal to be Re(Caste): Annie Burton's Narrative of Resistance," in The Southern Literary Journal (2004); and "Behold! Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: African-American Women's Spiritual Narratives" in The Cambridge Companion to 19th Century Women's Literature (2001). Dr. Pierce is the co-editor of The North Star: A Journal of African American Religious History and the coordinator of the Black Women's Conference, held at the University of Kentucky.

On Saturday evening, Dr. Pierce will intersperse commentary with two documentaries on Saartjie Baartman, the woman who was known to nineteenth-century Europeans as the Hottentot Venus.

A round-table discussion on New Woman writers will be held Friday evening featuring:

Ann Ardis

Topic: "Where We Are Now: Current Research on the New Woman"

Ann L. Ardis is a professor in the English Department at the University of Delaware specializing in cultural studies, literary theory and British literature 1880-1930. She is the author of New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism (Rutgers UP, 1990) and Modernism and Cutlural Conflict, 1880-1922 (Cambridge UP, 2002). She is also co-editor (with Leslie Lewis) of Women's Experience of Modernity, 1875-1945 (Johns Hopkins UP, 2002) and co-editor (with Bonnie Kime Scott) of Virginia Woolf Turning the Century: Selected Papers from the Ninth Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf (Pace UP, 2000). She has contributed essays to collections such as The New Woman: Gendering the Fin de Siecle, Outside Modernism, New Approaches to British Aestheticism, Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question, and Rereading Modernism: New Directions in Feminist Criticism, and published articles in Hypatia, Women's Studies, College Literature, and elsewhere. Ardis is also an MLA representative for the Late Nineteenth/Early Twentieth-Century Division (1999-2002).

Sally Mitchell

Topic: "New Women's Work: Personal, Political, Public"

Sally Mitchell is Professor Emerita of English and Women's Studies at Temple University. She is editor of a new series from Praeger, Victorian Life and Times. Her most recent book is Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer (University of Virginia Press, 2004). She also wrote The New Girl (Columbia UP, 1995), edited Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia (Garland, 1988), and has published books and articles on women writers, popular fiction, cheap periodicals and other topics. In addition, she is past president of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, has served a term on the MLA Executive Committee for the Victorian Period, and was for many years a member of the faculty board of review for Temple University Press.

Teresa Mangum

Topic: "She Loved to Go A Wandering: The New Woman and Empire"

Teresa Mangum is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa. Her book, Married, Middlebrow, and Militant: Sarah Grand and the New Woman Novel (University of Michigan Press, 1998), discusses the many ways Victorian feminists argued their politics through plots during the 1890s. Her recent publications in the burgeoning field of Age Studies include "Little Women: The Aging Female Character in Nineteenth-Century British Children's Literature" in Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations (1998); "Literary History as a Tool for Gerontology" in Handbook of the Humanities and Aging (1999); and "Passages of Life: Growing Old" in the Blackwell Guide to Victorian Literature and Culture (1999). She is also guest editor of two journal issues focused on interdisciplinary approaches to aging: "Fashioning Age: Cultural Narratives of Later Life," an issue of the Journal of Aging Studies (2003) and "Late Life in Common Culture," an issue of Journal of Aging and Identity (2002). Her current book-in-progress is The Victorian Invention of Old Age.

Friday night’s New Woman Roundtable, to be held at the Special Collections Library, will be accompanied by an exhibition of work by British women writers, including first editions and original manuscripts. Including Jane Austen and the Brontës, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth, Lady Carolyn Lamb, Mary Shelley, and many others, this exhibition will be sure to spark participants’ interests.