Interdisciplinary Conference

The Business of a Woman’s Life:

female authorship, celebrity, and fandom in the long 19th century

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Conference Details

An interdisciplinary conference to be hosted by the University of Reading, 26th March 2018.


Keynote Speaker (provisional): Prof. Alexis Easley, University of St. Thomas

Authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney will also participate in a panel discussion about women’s literary friendships, drawing on their research for their recent book A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf (Aurum Press, 2017).

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Call for Papers

This interdisciplinary conference aims to explore the wide variety of women’s engagement with literary and theatrical cultures in the long-nineteenth century as authors, performers and audience members. Literary and dramatic pursuits brought women into the public consciousness not only as creators and critics, but also as fans and consumers.

This conference develops the transdisciplinary perspectives of fan studies and audience engagement research back into the pre-twentieth century era. Scholars are invited from the fields of literary studies, social history, cultural studies, readership studies, book history, fan studies, and history of leisure and recreation to foster dialogues on the subject of nineteenth-century female creativity.

We invite proposals of 300 words for 20 minute presentations relating to the conference theme.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Responses to women’s literature – reviews, articles in periodicals and newspapers, letters written to female authors, advice on reading offered to women

• Women’s ephemera – scrapbooks, commonplace books, marginalia, correspondence, diaries

• Female authors in conversation – intertextual references to other works, correspondence between authors and/or publishers

• Gender and performance – theatrical and musical fandoms, public readings of poetry and prose, women’s public speaking

• The promotion and marketing for cultural events and publications featuring women, and/or aimed at a female audience

• Women and the literature of professionalization – scientific articles, monographs, medical treatises, autobiographies/biographies of prominent female professionals

• Gender and performativity – writing under gendered pseudonyms, the ‘feminisation’ of genres such as the gothic and the romance

Please send your abstract, and a 100 word biographical note, to organiser Evan Hayles Gledhill by 30 November 2017 at:

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Location and Access

The conference will take place in the Conference Room, at the Museum of English Rural Life, on the University of Reading’s London Road Campus on 26th March 2018. Full details regarding access and directions are available on MERL’s website.

Parking is limited, so please do consider the many public transport options. If attendees are interested in sharing taxis from the railway station, the organisers will be glad to facilitate contact between individuals in advance, once registration is open.

Dedicated disabled visitor parking spaces are available, and there is a step free entrance with automatic door and wheelchair lifts for all stairs. The fully-accessible toilets are on a different floor to the conference space, however. The conference room has a projector and sound system, and we will ask all speakers to use the microphone.

Tea and coffee and lunch will be provided as part of the attendance costs, and we will be taking the dietary requirements of the attendees in consideration.

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Contact the Organiser

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Please get in touch regarding any queries about the event.