Literary Pathways through Female Sin to Sainthood

Jenessa  Kenway's picture
Call for Papers
May 26, 2021 to July 30, 2021
Nevada, United States
Subject Fields: 
Humanities, Literature, Religious Studies and Theology, Sexuality Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

The following special session will take place at the 2021 Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association conference being held at the University of Nevada Las Vegas November 11 - 14, 2021. 


This panel invites papers on contemporary texts or stories from antiquity that examine the difficulties of expressing female saintliness/sexuality and the linguistic pathways formed, hurdles overcome, to do so. In early ascetic Christianity, female holiness required transcending female gender. Stories of female saints are fascinating navigations of gender and spirituality with astonishing tales of harlots becoming saints. The theme of female holiness and fallen women turning to religion persists throughout literature from George Eliot’s Adam Bede, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, to Simone Weil’s Waiting for God and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Inverting the pattern, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, present female protagonists who discover The Sacred within sensuality. In these stories, women characters, forced or voluntarily, step outside of society, positioning as martyred saints in a desert space, resulting in a poignant outsider status that offers compelling reflections upon the world from a distance. Discussion of ancient and contemporary works will provide opportunities to look for patterns and connections between old and new on this intriguing topic. Finally, having this panel in Las Vegas – the city of sin – is bound to impact the conversation in surprising and exciting ways.


Like so many others, this conference was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but had to be postponed. To accomodate those who wish to attend in-person and those who prefer a virtual conference, this panel currently offers both options. Please, choose the option that best fits your needs.  


For those wishing to attend the conference in-person submit to:

For those wishing to attend the conference virtually submit to:


Contact Info: 

Jenessa Kenway - Eng. Dept. - University of Nevada Las Vegas

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