Mothers-in-law are familiar figures in jokes, stories, and culture. They are everywhere. Yet it is interesting to note that, to date, and even though the mother-in-law figure is an ever-present figure in life and an important part of social and cultural history in all societies, world-wide, it would seem that there are no published academic books on representations of the mother-in-law from the angle suggested in this cfp.
It would indeed be most interesting to discover how the mother-in-law is perceived in the popular and social culture as represented in the literature, film, drama, and television of various cultures. (Examples that come immediately mind from a western perspective are small screen productions such as Downton Abbey and the BBC production Upstairs Downstairs, and the Australian-American film Monster-in-Law, as well as two Australian novels, Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum by Georgia Madden, and The Unknown Woman by Jaqueline Nunn).
As a suggestion only, potential questions that could be addressed may include but are not limited to:
- What is the range of ways in which the mother-in-law is represented in the popular/social culture of the various societies?
- Is it possible to identify contemporary writers of popular-culture in literature, film, drama, and television, who predominantly engage in a practice of centring their work on representations of the mother-in-law? Do any of these writers, (if any), illuminate individual representations of the mother-in-law in a new and innovative way?
- How might the mother-in-law be represented across the western and non-western cultures, and what are the common factors if any? How do class, ethnicity, culture, and race shape these representations?
- Are there cultural or socially historical antecedents for consideration of representations of the mother-in-law in popular/social culture, as literature, film, drama, and television?
- Is there a difference between the ways in which the mother-in-law is represented in cinematic film to that in small screen, and between those mediums to representations in drama, and to literature? Or in these representations, is there a reasonably broad consensus between these genres?
- What are the distinctions between how the mother-in-law has been typically represented in jokes and anecdotes, to that in popular and social culture as literature, film, drama, and television?
- How often, if at all, are these representations told from the point-of-view of the mother-in-law herself?
- As well, are there examples of representations of the wonderfully successful mother-in-law?
This collection of scholarly essays will make an interesting intervention in the field by fulfilling a number of aims. It will: be the first of its kind to explore whether or not there are characteristic features and definitions within the representations of the mother-in-law in popular culture; document and record how our western and non-western societies perceive and represent the socially important figure of the mother-in-law in film, stage, and literary works; indicate if there is agreement or difference between the various cultures on how the figure of the mother-in-law is represented in popular-culture to the viewing/reading audiences; establish a new and dynamic area of theoretical research in social history, and point the way to possible future work in an ever-expanding field through examining various representations of the mother-in-law in popular culture; permit scholarly consideration of the extent to which writers establish popular representations of a figure who is an intrinsic part of every culture as a whole.
Abstracts should be written in English, no more than 500 words in total, excluding the title, and the keywords. At the top of your abstract, after the word “Keywords,” please add five keywords for you abstract. Full-length chapters (of no more than 6000 words each) will be solicited from these abstracts.
Please submit a short biographical note with your covering letter, and give your affiliation if any, and your contact details. These may be attached to your abstract. No need to send two separate documents.
Dr Jo Parnell, Conjoint Fellow, Faculty of Education and the Arts, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, Australia.