Special Issue of Studies in American Fiction: The EcoGothic

Matthew Sivils's picture
Call for Publications
December 31, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Literature, Environmental History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Animal Studies


A Special Issue of Studies in American Fiction

“The EcoGothic”

We invite submissions for a special issue of Studies in American Fiction devoted to the ecoGothic, an emergent critical approach that explores the intersections between the Gothic imagination and the natural world. The ecoGothic offers suggestive pathways toward theorizing the environmental humanities by investigating how such texts at times harbor the monstrous, the spectral, and the sublime. Gothic anxieties haunt some of our most environmentally-focused literature. Likewise, natural elements and environmental concerns emerge, often in subtle ways, in texts more conventionally recognized under the label of the Gothic.

We seek submissions that shine a light into the shadowy corners of the American literary tradition, that address a host of environments—natural, unnatural, supernatural—and that explore canonical as well as understudied texts to reveal an environment that is not only a realm of beauty and enlightenment but also the province of madness and fear.

Topics might include but are not limited to: 

  • The Gothic as a vehicle for addressing environmental injustice
  • Fear of nature (i.e., ecophobia); terror in/of the wilderness
  • Threats to the integrity of the human body; the melding of the human and the non-human (e.g., the ecogrotesque, trans-corporeality, hybridization, and post-humanism)
  • EcoGothic and disability; the spectacle of the “unnatural” body (e.g., freak shows)
  • Gothic tropes (e.g., the uncanny, the sublime) within an environmental context
  • The apocalyptic; connections between human oppression and environmental degradation or the threat of extinction
  • EcoGothic and regionalism; the Southern ecoGothic
  • The transnational ecoGothic
  • Queer figurations of ecology; the social construction of the (un)natural
  • Ecological crises and the repressed other; environmental guilt
  • Frontier Gothic; maritime Gothic; and the horrors of conquering nature
  • The land as a haunted house; cursed environments (e.g., swamps, cemeteries, battlefields)
  • Ecofeminism through a Gothic lens
  • The legacy of slavery written upon the land (e.g., plantations and memorials)
  • Vengeful environments; monstrous wildlife; uncanny plants

How might we theorize American Gothic works in relation to their portrayal of the non-human? How does the history of environmental thought emerge or diverge in these texts? What anxieties and fears about the human impact upon the natural world appear in the literary culture of the industrial age? What environmentally-based terrors surface in Moby-Dick? What do we hear in the sound of the “waddling fungus growths [that] just shriek with derision!” in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper”? How can we read Chesnutt’s Southern Gothic conjure tales in which slaves are transformed into trees or otherwise physically linked with the plantation environment? In Morrison’s Beloved, what are the implications of the tree-shaped scar on Sethe’s back?

Please send 250 word abstracts by June 30, 2021; final submissions of 8000–10,000 words (including endnotes and works cited) in Chicago format will be due December 31, 2021. Please send submissions and any queries to the guest editor: Matthew Wynn Sivils (sivils@iastate.edu).

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Matthew Wynn Sivils

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