Calls for Papers

Call for Papers: ‘Breaking Bounds’, an interdisciplinary postgraduate conference on 19th-century women

Call for Papers: ‘Breaking Bounds’ Postgraduate Conference, Centre for Studies in Literature, University of Portsmouth

Proposals are invited for a one-day interdisciplinary postgraduate conference to be held at the University of Portsmouth on Saturday May 11th , 2019

“We shall and must break bounds at intervals, despite the terrible revenge that awaits our return.”   – Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853).

Social media movements such as #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport have created spaces for women to share their experiences of sexual violence, harassment and objectification, as well as condemning the seeming acceptability of men abusing their positions of power. Going beyond individual stories, these discussions have rejected notions of female victimhood and have attempted to shift the focus onto the behaviour of male abusers and question the institutional structures that perpetuate it. Significantly, this analysis of the social and political structures that govern power distribution has opened up the discussion to allow examination of the intersectionality of gender dynamics, and explore the experiences of a wide variety of social groups.

Within this discussion, writers are beginning to trace the links between gender dynamics in the current climate and that of the nineteenth century, when the ‘Woman Question’ debate developed alongside legal reforms to the status and protection of women. This interdisciplinary conference looks to examine forms of female curtailment and restraint – and attempts to challenge and subvert them – in the nineteenth century, with an eye to better understanding how modern society is still constrained by the past.

Potential topics include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Physical restraints: bonds, chains, clothing, confined spaces
  • Enslavement and indentured labour
  • Policing women
  • Professional restrictions and gendered employment
  • Medical confinement and ‘hysteria’
  • ‘Odd women’ (to use Gissing’s phrase) of the nineteenth century
  • Socially-constructed constraints
  • Gendered conceptions of artistic and literary genres
  • Performing identities and subversive spaces: the stage, circus, fairground

We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers. Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to by 1st February 2019, accompanied by a short biography (50 words) and up to four keywords (e.g. gender, disability, ‘author name’, ‘text name’) relating to your abstract’s themes or topics.

Keynote speakers: Professor Gail Marshall, University of Reading and Professor June Purvis, University of Portsmouth

Conference Organisers: Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott; Lucie Cook; Debbie Parker Kinch; Rachel Rawlings and Sara Zadrozny


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