Moving between closed and open spaces: Maximizing dramatic tension in fiction

Jody Lisberger's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2019
Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Literature, Women's & Gender History / Studies

NeMLA 2020 BOSTON March 5-8 Creative Writing Panel CFP

In her essay, “Why Women’s Spaces are Critical to Feminist Autonomy,” Patricia McFadden argues that “the issue of male presence, in physical and ideological terms, within what should be women-only spaces is not just a matter of ideological contestation and concern within the Women’s Movement globally; it is also a serious expression of the backlash against women’s attempts to become autonomous of men in their personal/political relationships and interactions.” Her attention to how “space is gendered and highly politicized as a social resource” points to how creative writers also use the movement between “marked” spaces to reveal “struggles that are basically about establishing ownership and using that ownership to fulfill an agenda.” While McFadden focuses on “the issue of male intrusion into women’s political spaces” and how “this demand is always made with the conscious desire to undertake surveillance on what women are thinking, saying and doing,” her argument about the treachery of gendered and closed spaces and the need to contest and break out of them connects to how fiction writers can capitalize on their characters’ shift(s) between closed and open spaces. This panel invites fiction writers to read from and analyze moments in their fiction to discuss how fiction writers exploit such movements to drive dramatic tension, overcome the power of backlash, and/or compel key revelatory and/or liberatory moments for a character and a book. Inviting writers to focus on the dramatic impact of moving between spaces, especially room to room, indoors to outdoors, or vice versa, this panel also invites writers to explore how revision can help develop the dramatic power inherent in such shifts.


This panel combines fiction craft and feminist thought to explore how fiction writers can and do empower characters who challenge closed spaces, and might help writers perhaps realize why such challenges in the act of writing are both sometimes difficult and yet vital. The panel underscores the idea that writing and reading are political acts, and that in the telling of stories and challenge to master narratives, fiction writers tap into the most serious and important of enterprises.

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Jody Lisberger

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