Call for Papers
Religion and (Proto)Feminism in Early Modern Women’s Lives and Works, 1500-1800
There is a tendency among some contemporary feminists to place religion (especially monotheistic religion) and feminism on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum — as belief systems and sets of practices that compete with and / or threaten each other. Feminist activist Gloria Steinem gave voice to such a perspective in a response to an interview question about what she wished she had been more responsive to over the years. She professed, “What I should have been more in an uproar about is monotheism and religion…I mean, religion is, too often, politics you’re not supposed to talk about,” though she clarifies she is open to the more “democratic” category of “spirituality.” The “feminist and trade union activist” Cath Elliott is more explicit about her belief that religion is hostile to the feminist cause, “Christianity is and always has been antithetical to women’s freedom and equality, but it’s certainly not alone in this. Whether it’s one of the world’s major faiths or an off-the-wall cult, religion means one thing and one thing only for those women unfortunate enough to get caught up in it: oppression. It’s the patriarchy made manifest, male-dominated, set up by men to protect and perpetuate their power.”
In this interdisciplinary collection, we wish to interrogate and test the accuracy of the statements by Steinem and Elliott (among others) on the historical relationship between religion and (proto) feminism, particularly of Elliott’s claim that “Christianity is and always has been antithetical to women’s freedom and equality.” We will accomplish this end by closely analyzing the lives and works of women creating cultural artifacts in Britain and the Americas between 1500 and 1800 — that is between the Renaissance and the inception of the Romantic period. Essays that take into account the intersectionality of women’s identities and works in this historical span are particularly welcome.
In writing their essays, contributors will be expected to pay close attention to the material culture in which women lived and produced a range of works (poetry, plays, prose, drawings, paintings, sculpture, etc.). They will also be asked to draw on the growing body of scholarship on feminism and religion that complicate or trouble (but does not necessarily disprove) the view that feminism and religion are antithetical forces.
300-500-word proposals, along with a CV, should be submitted by e-mail to Dr. Holly Faith Nelson, Professor and Chair of English and Co-Director of the Gender Studies Institute, Trinity Western University, on or before 30 September 2019.
Strong interest in the collection has been expressed by a university press for the series on Early Modern Feminisms.
Dr. Holly Faith Nelson