Seminars from 2019

We invite proposals from prospective seminar leaders on any topic relevant to the conference. After seminar topics are announced on the conference website in fall 2018, participants will be able to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, at the point when registration for the conference as a whole opens. Seminars are limited to 15 participants, who write short position papers that are circulated and read prior to the conference. Please consult the Call for Papers for further details.
If you would like to propose a paper for the following seminars, you may wish to contact the organizer directly, but it is not necessary to do so. You will be able to confirm your participation in a seminar at the point of registering for the conference. It is assumed that seminar participants will produce short position papers for circulation to other seminar members. Conference registrants may present a seminar paper and present work in one other session.
Writing about Reproduction

Karen Weingarten, Queens College, City University of New York

Even as more literary critics are thinking about novels that represent the use of birth control, films that openly discuss abortion or show childbirth, TV shows that discuss surrogacy or couples using IVF, and other cultural productions like popular magazines announcing celebrity pregnancies or speculating about donor eggs, there has not been a lot of conversation engaging these representations across genre, national boundaries, cultures, and time periods. How, for example, does contemporary science fiction take up pregnancy and assisted reproductive technologies in comparison to earlier literatures about pregnancy? Or, how does the conversation about the representation of race and reproduction in the early twentieth century compare to that in the twenty-first century? How are we writing about disability and prenatal testing in literature across national boundaries given different beliefs about abortion and inheritance? How have memoirs aimed at different audiences expanded the ways in which reproduction is discussed? What are some other mediums, like social media platforms, pamphlets in doctors’ offices, and online forums, that are used to disseminate information about reproduction and how does this contribute to conversations about reproduction? And finally, why might be it be important to turn to the representation of reproduction, in all its various forms and meanings, to better understand how some facets of reproduction have become such political and moral issues in our cultural productions? Ideally, this seminar would be a conversation about literature and culture that engages all these various forms of reproduction, and others, in a diverse array of genres published from 1900 to the present moment.

Papers may run 5 - 25 pages, depending on the level of feedback participants would like to receive. Papers will be pre-circulated; works in draft form are perfectly fine (and encouraged). Papers should be submitted to the seminar organizer by February 1. Participants are encouraged to contact the seminar organizer directly with any questions.

Dessin Féminin?: Towards a Feminist Narratology of Comics

Sandra Cox, Southeast Missouri State University

In Laugh of the Medusa (1976), Hélène Cixous suggests that the development of new non-linear narrative forms could begin enlarging inscribed communication to render sex, gender, sexuality and textuality as acts of playful ambiguity rather than as static, identarian polemics. Although Cixous’s elliptical description of l’ecriture féminine focuses exclusively on the uses of written language, the duplicate narrative register of comics, as a form produced by the combination of pictures and words (as well as the numerous diegetic registers that combination creates), seems an ideal medium for investigating this kind of disruption of formalist aesthetics.


This seminar asks participants to consider whether feminist narratological models of comics criticism might be used to posit the classification of some intersectional feminist comics as a kind of dessin féminin—a non-phallogocentric drawing, rather than writing.  Feminist narratologists, like Susan Lanser and Robyn Warhol, have built upon Cixous’s work by suggesting that nondiscrete evolutions of form might shift the ways in which writing and drawing function mimetically and diegetically in comics, graphic novels, and graphic non-fiction.


The seminar will begin with an overview of the existing conversation about intersectional feminist criticism of the formal features of comics. Then, seminar participants will collaborate to apply that criticism to analysis of some examples drawn from contemporary works of graphic nonfiction by Joe Sacco (“Trauma on Loan,” 2007), Jon Sack (La Lucha: the Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico, 2015), Lynda Barry (One Hundred Demons, 2002), and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis II, 2004); however, seminar participants are invited to submit short position papers (of no more than 1250 words/5 pages in length) that posit any formal analysis of comics, graphic novels and works of graphic nonfiction published since 1900. The last half of the seminar will be devoted to workshopping those position papers and considering the participants’ readings of comics alongside the critical concepts drawn from feminist narratology. To facilitate this workshop, participants will be asked to send their position papers, by email, two weeks in advance of the conference (7 February 2019), and then to read and consider the work of fellow seminarians before attending the seminar. Participants are encouraged to contact the seminar organizer directly with any questions.