NeMLA 2020 Panel, American Gothic Domesticity: Blissful Misery

Caitlin Duffy's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2019
Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies, Literature, Film and Film History, Popular Culture Studies

Leslie Fiedler describes American fiction as “bewilderingly and embarrassingly, a gothic fiction… in a land of light and affirmation.” This panel pushes past Fiedler’s focus to instead explore the dark and enclosed spaces of the American home. These sites are featured in countless texts, from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), to Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), and beyond, to 21st-century films like Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018). To better understand the role played by fictionalized domestic spaces in constructing American identity, our panel will yoke together gothic and sentimental theory and literature. Lora Romero’s remapping of literary landscapes challenges perpetual binarisms of the nineteenth-century by locating domesticity not only in the middle-class home, but also in the frontier. This panel adds to this work by further emphasizing the influence of domesticity in constructing American character.

This panel invites papers interrogating gothic depictions of domestic spaces in American fiction (including, but not limited to, literature, film, and television). Papers utilizing gothic and sentimental literature to support, challenge, or problematize conceptions of what qualifies as ‘home’ are especially welcome. We also encourage papers that explore the American home’s representation temporally by tracing transformations or continuations of its fictional appearance across time. Can home spaces be conceived of as racialized or gendered, and how might play between the inside/outside binary allow for new modes of thinking about the home and identity politics? In what ways can we problematize the fixity of home to include the sea and the expanding frontier? How are notions of selfhood and home inherently linked or radically redefined through genre?

All proposals must be submitted through the NeMLA portal by September 30, 2019 and should be no more than 300 words.

The 51st annual NeMLA conference will take place on March 5-8, 2020 in Boston, MA. For more information:

Contact Info: 

If you have questions, please contact either of our two co-chairs:

Danielle Cofer- 

Caitlin Duffy -