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The elusive woman

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Organizer: christina kkona

Co-Organizer: Sébastien Doubinsky

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Scholarly interest in portrayals of female errancy has mainly focused on works of previous eras, from Ariosto’s women wanderers to Francisco López de Úbeda’s La picara Justina (1605) to Frances Burney’s The wanderer, or Female difficulties (1814). Barbara Antoniazzi’s The Wayward Woman. Progressivism, Prostitution, and Performance in the United States, 1888–1917, despite its narrow scope, has the merit of being one of the rare works recasting the gender question at the turn of the century while addressing the association of female mobility with female sexuality. From early 20th century modernism to postmodern, African-American and postcolonial literature, the revival of representations of female errancy, fugitivity and rebelliousness compose a great specter of antihegemonic poetics across different ethnic literatures, genres, and media. From Colette’s The Vagabond (1910) to Proust’s The Fugitive (1925) and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood (1936), and from Kateb Yacine’s Nedjma (1952) to Tony Morisson’s Beloved (1987), female wanderers and runaways reveal the literary, cultural and political relevance of a hitherto unstudied “character,” the male variants of which peopled the picaresque novel. Deprived of property, social respectability, and imperialistic drives, female wanderers embrace precariousness, liminality, and willfulness in movies such as Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), Agnès Varda’s Vagabond (1985), and Chantal Akerman’s La captive (2000).

Through comparative approaches, this seminar aims at exploring the itineraries of female wanderers, their literary structuring, and the narrative specificities of their emergence. It also seeks to reveal the feminist, queer as well as the anti-racist and cosmopolitan potential of the elusive woman.

We invite submissions reflecting diverse literary and cinematic traditions, engaging with different genres and media and drawing on different critical approaches to discuss the aforementioned questions. We also welcome critical approaches to the understanding of “character” and in particular the “elusive woman,” as well as discussions of different forms of female errancy (the vagabond, the adventurer, the wayward, the outcast, the fugitive, etc.)


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