2025 MLA CFP: “Imperfect Women Writers” sponsored by the Margaret Fuller Society

“Imperfect Women Writers” sponsored by the Margaret Fuller Society

Modern Language Association 2025 | January 9–12, 2025, New Orleans

In Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, the editors cite an anonymous correspondent of Fuller’s, who writes, “Margaret was one of the few persons who looked upon life as an art, and every person not merely as an artist, but as a work of art. She looked upon herself as a living statue, which should always stand on a polished pedestal, with right accessories, and under the most fitting lights. She would have been glad to have everybody so live and act. She was annoyed when they did not, and when they did not regard her from the point of view which alone did justice to her. No one could be more lenient in her judgments of those whom she saw to be living in this light. Their faults were to be held as ‘the disproportions of the ungrown giant.’ But the faults of persons who were unjustified by this ideal, were odious.”

Plenty of Fuller’s best and most sensitive readers would disagree with this appraisal. Still, it is useful for thinking about the ways readers and critics continue to render women writers works of art upon pedestals. How do we chip away at that penchant? What responsibilities do we have as critics to remove women writers from the pedestals predecessors or previous readers may have made?

How should we write and teach women writers in ways that document their flaws, failures, shadows, perceived imperfections, or positions on “wrong” sides of history?

How d0 women writers—and their readers—contend with criticism or with pressures not to speak up and out during their time?

How do censorship and/or recovery scholarship affect the ways we study women’s writing in our own difficult moment, especially amidst increasingly racist and misogynist currents within/against academia?

How should critics handle violence in nineteenth-century women’s views/voices and writing?

Submissions about Margaret Fuller are, of course, welcome, but proposals need not be limited to Fuller’s life or work. The Margaret Fuller Committee for Racial Justice encourages submissions to all panels to address anti-racist approaches to scholarship, pedagogy, and community engagement. Early career scholars are—as always—especially encouraged to apply.

Please send 250-word proposals or questions to Mollie Barnes at mbarnes2@uscb.edu with “MLA 2025 Proposal” in the subject line by March 22, 2024.