Call for Papers

Women & Water in Global Literature

The symbols and tropes of liquidity have long been connected to notions of the feminine, and therefore with orthodox constructions of femininity and womanhood: the womb as watery cradle, the untameable ocean connected to the untameable mysteries and strengths of womankind, the feminization of water’s ability to transgress boundaries through associations with the mothering body.

Underpinning all such ideas, of course, is the central importance of water as life force, which has given it an equally central place in cultural vocabularies worldwide; creating the discourses through which positive or negative associations of women with water come to bear great impact on the social positioning of women.

Such metaphorizations have therefore also figured prominently in critical (and non-critical) depictions of women in artistic fora, informing the vocabulary with which female or feminised gendered identities have been delineated, and their formulation interrogated throughout world cultures and correlative critical theories and discourses: psychoanalysis, écriture féminine, postmodern notions of fluidity versus static binaries, the rewriting of myths and fairy tales, to name but a few, all call upon these archetypal connections.

This is a call for expressions of interest for contributing chapters to an edited volume, provisionally entitled Women and Water: Exploring Global Portrayals of the Feminine. The project has been inspired by the proposing co-editors’ observations of the frequency of these tropes of liquidity in their own individual work on women’s writing from Hispanic and Francophone cultures, and by the fact that there is no existing volume that explores their place in world literature by and/or about women.

The bringing together of a series of such explorations promises to generate a fascinating vista on their place in women’s writing/writing about women and gendered identities from across the globe, and thereby to meaningfully contribute to our understanding of the role of these ideas in the social construction and literary communication or critique of ideas surrounding womanhood:

  • What roles do such metaphors, symbols and associations play in female experiences of and depictions of gendered identities around the world?
  • How do they inform the place of women in distinct social contexts?
  • How do they contrast and/or combine with symbols/metaphors of masculinity?
  • What roles might they play in the move to challenge polarised articulations of gender?
  • How are they adopted, adapted, challenged and re-written by women writers as part of their project of self-representation?
  • What roles do they play in depictions of broader cultural and environmental issues where gender is invoked? For example in relation to current issues regarding water as a precious resource/as commodity and links with conflict and morality, or about water as a force in natural disaster – floods, rising sea levels, evoking connotations of an out of control/ dysfunctional environment which threatens rather than supports life

The collection will focus on works from the 20th and 21st centuries.

We have had an expression of interest from Routledge for this project, potentially as part of their Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature series (tbc). If you would like to contribute a chapter on this subject matter, please contact Dr Emma Staniland ( or Dr Liz Jones ( with an abstract for your proposed chapter by March 31 2017. Submission of final chapters anticipated for September 15 2017.