What, when & where
Reading with and against the Grain: New Perspectives on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Editors: Stephanie Palmer (Nottingham Trent University, UK, President of the Mary E. Wilkins Freeman Society), Myrto Drizou (Boğaziçi University, Turkey), Cécile Roudeau (Université Paris-Diderot, France)
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman is perhaps best known, read and taught today as the author of short regionalist fiction. Subsequent to the recovery work that put her back on the map of American letters some fifty years after her death, she gained recognition in the US and abroad at the intersection of diverse and sometimes overlapping literary critical rubrics, including new England “local color,” rebellious regionalism and female naturalism. More recently, however, Freeman studies have taken a different set of turns including ecofiction, trauma studies, and religious studies. New research on Freeman, invigorated by the foundation of the Mary E. Wilkins Freeman Society at the 2017 meeting of the MLA in Boston, has disclosed unexpected aspects of her work. This essay collection, coedited by the three founders of the society and featuring a concluding essay by Sandra Zagarell, aims at pushing further in this direction. It does not intend so much to recover Freeman as to uncover alternative modes of reading her work.
Reading Freeman with and against the grain—taking her lead when her lead does not necessarily fit our expectations as critics—implies unlearning what we think we know about her and her production and accepting to unsettle the conditions of normative legibility that have been applied to her work to present. Because her prolific production spans over nearly 50 years, from the early 1880s and well into the modernist era; because she experimented with a diverse array of forms and genres, writing poems and novels and sketches, children’s tales and sentimental stories and protest novels; because her biography tells us that she straddled social classes as well as literary movements (Transcendentalism, sentimentalism, realism, naturalism); because, and most importantly perhaps, her work ultimately resists many of the very frames that have brought her back to visibility, frustrating our attempts to situate her in clearly delineated categories, Freeman’s work is robust and varied enough to bear the weight of critical rethinking as we question the paradigms that have obscured her work—and that of other (women) writers—from view in our post-recovery critical times.
One of these paradigms, which has been recently questioned, is that of the analytical grid of a single-author. To be clear, reopening the case of Freeman does not mean reverting to the trope of the writer as an exceptional figure or the myth of unified authorial intention, let alone a biographical approach that often dismisses the author’s late production—in the case of Freeman, the texts that she wrote once married and “delocalized” to New Jersey. To the contrary, this edited collection seeks to avoid the pitfalls that have sometimes affected projects of recovery and, by eschewing expectations of self-coherence and artistic consistency, focus rather on a variety of authorial and critical practices, allowing Freeman’s texts to challenge us still as they elude us and our categories.
Reading with and against the Grain aims at reflecting the diversity of our field. We welcome contributions from junior and senior scholars and graduate student scholars from the US, Europe, UK, and elsewhere in an attempt to create a more integrated and transnational sense of Freeman studies. We are particularly interested in proposals that pressurize and redirect any aspect of Freeman’s oeuvre. Playing with frames and scales of analysis is especially welcome. Innovative critical forms are also invited.
Topics may include but are not restricted to:
– erotic Freeman; funny Freeman; frustrating Freeman; Anglo-Saxon Freeman; capitalistic Freeman; political Freeman…
-Freeman as a novelist; Freeman as a poet; Freeman as a playwright…
-Freeman and masculinity; Freeman and disability; Freeman and the print cultures of her time…
-Zooming out. Reading Freeman out of (her) space; out of New England; out of the US: global Freeman; transregional Freeman…; Freeman and international writers (Ibsen, Maupassant, Tolstoy….); rewriting Freeman; intertextual Freeman; translating Freeman, teaching Freeman abroad…
Reading Freeman out of (her) time: rethinking the periodization of Freeman’s studies; Freeman and the seventeenth-century; Freeman and dark Romanticism (Hawthorne, Melville and the American Renaissance); modernist Freeman…
-Zooming in: reading Freeman periodically (in the context of the magazines she published in); reading Freeman literally; symptomatically; reading Freeman digitally; reading Freeman’s archives…
Deadline & how to apply
Deadlines: 500-words abstracts (for papers between 6000 and 7000 words, including endnotes and list of works cited using the MLA format) must be submitted by April 15, 2019. Notification of acceptance will be given by May 15, 2019. Send abstracts to all three editors: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Final drafts of papers must be submitted by September 1, 2019.
Other info, Links & conditions
A symposium will be scheduled mid-January 2020 in Paris, France, to share feedback.
Final articles must be submitted late spring 2020.
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