Call For Papers: Romantic Women’s Writing and Sexual Transgression

Romantic Women’s Writing and Sexual Transgression

Call for Papers

 Edited by Kathryn Ready (University of Winnipeg) and David Sigler (University of Calgary)

Women writers have not figured centrally within the study of transgressive sexuality in the Romantic period. The influential paradigm of distinct, and distinctly gendered traditions of Romanticism, “masculine” and “feminine,” has encouraged the perception that Romantic-era women writers were not significantly engaged with transgressive sexualities. There has been longstanding popular fascination with the sex lives of male Romantic writers such as George Gordon, Lord Byron, and a sense, drawn from the early work of Mario Praz in The Romantic Agony (1933), that Romantic writing is preoccupied with illicit and criminal sexuality. There has been concerted work in Romantic-era sexuality studies since the 1990s, yet many questions still remain regarding how women writers fit into a tradition of Romanticism in which transgressive sexuality is taken as a defining feature. While substantial ongoing attention has been paid to sexual transgression and male writers of the period such as the Marquis de Sade, William Beckford, Matthew Lewis, Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the topics of sexual transgressions and perversions in woman-authored Romantic writing are still strikingly understudied, despite work in this direction by scholars such as Adriana Craciun.

As the narrative of separate Romanticisms is increasingly called into question and as our understanding of Romantic-era sexuality has deepened, there is now an opportunity to explore more fully the wealth of material produced by female Romantic writers on different kinds of transgressive sexuality and the transgressive sexual lives that a number of them led. To what extent did women writers contribute to the ascendant regime of sexual discipline, and to what extent did they resist it, or formulate other models, exploiting, for example, the “epistemological panic” theorized by Richard Sha? There is additional scope for thinking about what women writers contribute specifically to the understanding of what Foucault calls “peripheral sexualities” in the period.

We welcome essays on Romantic women writers and a variety of transgressive and “perverse” sexualities, including, but not limited to: masturbation, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, nymphomania, sex work, voyeurism, sadism, masochism, homosexuality, incest, necrophilia, bestiality, and ecosexuality. These could be analyses of individual texts in which transgressive sexuality is explored, discussions of writers’ lives and personas, or analyses of emergent discourses of female perversion in the period. Essays may also consider, for example: how does the proximity of sexual perversion affect women’s literary considerations of gender, race, class, the social order, politics, or domesticity?

As a first step, we welcome abstracts of 200-250 words. We will be pleased to receive your abstracts by November 1, 2020. Shortly thereafter, we will be able to let you know, based on the abstract, whether your essay has been selected for inclusion. First drafts of complete essays, of between 5000 and 8000 words, will be due in August 2021. We hope to see a wide range of topics from many different scholars, and are interested in promoting early career scholars, BIPOC scholars, and scholars from other marginalized groups. If, given current circumstances, potential contributors feel that they need an extension of either proposed deadline, please just let us know and we will endeavor to be flexible.

Abstracts should be emailed to the editors: and


Kathryn Ready and David Sigler