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Unsung Heroines (NeMLA) 2016 : Unsung Heroines of British Literature


When Mar 17, 2016 - Mar 20, 2016
Where Hartford, Connecticut
Submission Deadline Sep 30, 2015

Call For Papers

Papers invited for a roundtable at NeMLA Convention, 2016


How many of us remember Helen Burns or Biddy? Helen fades beside Jane Eyre; Estella, despite her cruel whimsicality, steals the limelight and leaves Biddy in a growing shadow. With the rise of postcolonial and/or feminist criticism, more attention has been paid to Rochester’s Creole wife than to Helen; similarly, Miss Havisham promises to be a far more fascinating study for many scholars than the modest Biddy who perfectly meets the description of the ‘Angel in the House’. One may argue Helen and Biddy are mere side-characters (in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, respectively) and therefore, do not register in the reader’s memory at a greater depth. Yet, what about the female protagonists like Fanny Price (in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park), Anne Elliot (in Austen’s Persuasion) and Margaret Hale (in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South)? When we think of tragic heroines, characters like Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and John Webster’s Duchess of Malfi ace immediately; we forget the demure Ophelia (in Shakespeare’s Hamlet), the bravely defiant Emilia (in Shakespeare’s Othello) and the silently suffering Charlotte Lucas (in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice).

This proposed roundtable intends to focus some attention back on the unsung heroines of British literature. Scholarly papers are invited for this session. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• Who are such unsung heroines?
• Why do they remain so?
• How does politics of canonization play a role?
• Role of contemporaneous socio-politics?
• Are they forgotten precisely because they conform to the existing social code?
• Race, class, skin-color politics
• Colonial and postcolonial connotations
• How does the portrayal of such unacknowledged heroines differ in the writings of male and female authors?

Please submit a 500-word abstract of your planned presentation and a brief bio at by September 30, 2015.

The session is being proposed for the 47th Annual Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Convention at Hartford, Connecticut. The dates are March 17-20, 2016, and the convention will be hosted by University of Connecticut. For more information, visit or email

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