CFP: Monsters and Monstrosity in Nineteenth-Century Anglophone Literature

Call for Papers

Anglistik: International Journal of English Studies

Special issue on “Monsters and Monstrosity in Nineteenth-Century Anglophone Literature”

Guest editors: Gero Guttzeit and Natalya Bekhta

Anglophone literature in the nineteenth century abounds in monsters that continue to horrify even in the present: vampires, mummies, doppelgangers, ghosts, and zombies as well as Frankenstein’s monster, the Jabberwock, Helen Vaughan, and the Invisible Man. Our aim in this special issue of Anglistik is to remap this monstrous abundance in light of the emerging field of monster studies (Mittman 2016). Monster studies, also termed ‘monster theory’ (Cohen 1996) or ‘teratology’ (Picart and Browning 2012), “use[s] the monsters themselves as theoretical constructs” (Mittman 2016, 9), conceptualizes “monstrousness […] as a mode of cultural discourse” (Cohen 1996, viii), and understands monstrosity as an imposed narrative rather than an intrinsic feature of certain social appearances and behaviours (Wright 2013, 3). Since the nineteenth century has been crucial to the development of monster studies, particularly with regard to the monstrous body (Youngquist 2003), the vampire (Auerbach [1995] 2006) and Frankenstein’s creature (Baldick 1987), a dedicated publication on “Monsters and Monstrosity in Nineteenth-Century Anglophone Literature” will bring together fresh considerations of this historical period and the theory it inspired.

We aim to reconsider monsters and monstrosity within nineteenth-century literary narratives as well as to rethink monstrosity through nineteenth-century literature. Such a project might draw on a variety of influential theoretical approaches connected to the field of monster studies (Kristeva [1982] 2010; Haraway 1992; Carroll 1990; Halberstam 1995; Cohen 1996; McNally 2011; Mittman 2016). We are looking for contributions that revisit but also go beyond the traditional pinnacles of the 1816 Lake Geneva ghost story writing contest and the fin-de-siècle Gothic to ask the interconnected questions as to why the nineteenth century has such a peculiar affinity with monsters and monstrosity and which new impulses it can give monster studies today.

Issues and questions to be discussed include but are not limited to:

Periodization and historicization: Can events such as the “sudden population explosion of monsters” in the Romantic period (Burwick 2015, 176–77) be used to periodize the nineteenth century? Is a chronological structuring in monster studies “messy and inadequate” because a narrative of progress is unsuitable for describing monsters (Cohen 1996, ix) or do monsters have a recurring representational purpose and, like Gothic productions, mark comparable historical moments in the cycles of capitalist accumulation (Shapiro 2008, 30-31)?

Nation and disability: How can we extend and critique contemporary ideas of monstrosity from Britain, the US, and other Anglophone countries such as Emerson’s description of “[t]he state of society [as] one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters” (Emerson 1971, 53)? Can genres such as nineteenth-century Gothic sustain a critique of the monstrosity of impaired bodies (Anolik 2010)?

Gender and sexuality: While popular conceptions of monstrosity in early modern England very often took the shape of monstrous female bodies (Brenner 2009, 165), what can the relative marginality of female monsters in the monstrous pantheon of the nineteenth century tell us about redefinitions and readjustments of gender conceptions in the period? Which metaphors other than spectrality (re)define emergent notions of homosexuality (Castle 1993)?

Class and race: What can “capitalist monsterology” (McNally 2011, 2), which focuses on the monstrous forms of the lived experience of capitalism, tell us about the period when the current world-economy established itself? How do monsters such as Frankenstein’s creature and the zombie reinforce or rewrite experiences of slavery and categories of race (as suggested by Young’s (2008) work on black Frankenstein)?

Intertexuality, intermediality, and metaliterary meanings: What can different intermedial versions of monsters, for instance Frankenstein’s creature, tell us about the system of nineteenth-century literature and other media? What is the specificity of nineteenth-century variations of older, mythological monsters such as Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Kraken” (1830)? How does monstrosity work as an instrument of the metaphorization of literature and its production, distribution, and reception, as present, for instance, in Henry James’s early twentieth-century dismissal of certain nineteenth-century novels as “large loose baggy monsters” (James 1909, 477)?

‘Monstrous theory’: How can nineteenth-century monsters be used to rethink assumptions in what might be termed today’s “monstrous theory” connected, for instance, to the spectral turn, the posthuman turn, and the animal turn? What are conceptual alternatives to the so-called “anxiety model” of the Gothic as critiqued by Baldick and Mighall (2000)?

Anglistik: International Journal of English Studies (ISSN: 0947-0034) is the journal of the German Association for the Study of English (Anglistenverband). Further information on the journal can be found here: Full contributions of 5,000 to 7,000 words with MLA formatting will be due by October 1, 2018, and the final issue will be published with open access in late 2019.

Please submit a 500-word abstract (excluding bibliography) with a brief biography to the guest editors Gero Guttzeit and Natalya Bekhta at by January 15, 2018.