CFP: Women’s Friendships in 20th- and 21st-century Literature Culture (Deadline for abstract: 4.1.2019)

Call for Papers: Women’s Friendships in 20th- and 21st-century Literature and Culture

We are seeking scholarly essays (7000-9000 words) for an edited book collection on portrayals of women’s friendship in 20th- and 21st-century American literature and culture.

While much scholarship on women’s literature has addressed motherhood, sisterhood, and sexual relationships, less has focused on women’s friendships. The 2016 special issue of Feminist Studies devoted to women’s friendships situated literary portrayals of female friendship within the contexts of classical models of male friendship and real-world accounts of women’s relationships, but much work remains to be done. Friendship itself has been under-theorized and narratives of women’s friendships often repeat static tropes. They are romanticized as sources of always-available support, minimized as precursors to the ultimate fulfillment of heterosexual marriage, and demonized as facades masking envy and competition. Systemic patriarchal structures can impede and restrict women’s friendships and our interpretations of them. The book will explore cultural portrayals of women’s friendship in fiction, women’s life writing, nonfiction, film, poetry, and women’s popular culture and seeks to address the complexities of how 20th and 21st century cultural texts construe women’s friendships.

We seek essays that disrupt or write in opposition to patriarchal heteronormative tropes of women’s friendships extant in contemporary American literature and culture. Such tropes include the marriage plot, Boston marriages, and black women’s salons during the Harlem Renaissance. We pose the following question: What does women’s friendship look like beyond the gaze and imagination of this patriarchal heterosexist metanarrative?

  • Possible topics include but are not limited to
  • Friendships across differences of race, class, age, or politics
  • Power dynamics in women’s friendships
  • Friendship and adolescent identity formation
  • Adult women’s friendships
  • Envy and competition in women’s friendships
  • Friendships at work
  • Friendships formed through political activism
  • The role of friendship in coming-of-age stories
  • Friendship as acts of resistance
  • Friendships arising out of shared political commitment
  • The failure of the racial ally as a model of female friendship
  • How women interpret and relate to each other’s bodies

Send 500-word abstracts and a brief biographical statement (fewer than 60 words) to or by April 1, 2019. We will respond by the first week in May. Completed essays will be due September 1, 2019.