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July 25, 2011

Update: Rural Geographies CFP Deadline Extended

Follow-up to Rural Geographies of Gender and Space, Britain 1840–1920 from Charlotte's Research blog

The deadline for paper proposals for the symposium Rural Geographies of Gender and Space, Britain 1840-1920 has been extended to the 15th August.

See the previous blog or webpage for more information.

June 28, 2011

Rural Geographies of Gender and Space, Britain 1840–1920

I'm pleased to publish the Call for Papers for a symposium that I'm organising with my colleague Gemma Goodman on Rural Geographies of Gender and Space, Britain 1840-1920.


Whilst discussions of gender and space in the nineteenth- to early-twentieth century have typically focused on “women and the city”, rural spaces offer equally productive contexts for exploring the intersections between gender and space in this period. As the socio-spatial relations of the country are impacted by the move into modernity, rural environments are revealed in literary and historical texts as sites of complex, contradictory and changing gendered codes.

This half-day symposium offers a long-overdue forum in which to resituate the rural as a vital context for understanding the meanings of gender and space in this period. By bringing together scholars from different disciplinary perspectives we aim to understand the diverse experiences of gendered rural spaces and contribute to discussions about theoretical approaches to the (rural)space-gender intersection.

Proposals are invited for short papers from scholars in literary studies, history, geography, and any other discipline; postgraduate and early career researchers are especially encouraged to apply. Themes for discussion could include:

Ø theories of gender and rural place: what do we mean by rural space, how do we theorise “the rural” as a spatial context, and how does gender intersect?

Ø the impact of modernity;

Ø mobility: walking, vagabonds, pedestrians, wayward women;

Ø labour, class and gender in the country;

Ø masculinities;

Ø different ruralities;

Ø visibility/ invisibility

Please send a 300-word proposal for 15 minute papers by 29th July to the conference organisers Gemma Goodman and Charlotte Mathieson

January 01, 2011

A year of feminist classics

Writing about web page

Feminist ClassicsI don't do resolutions, but here's something of interest for the year: a Year of Feminist Classics blogging project. Operating along the lines of an informal blogging-reading group, each month a different feminist text will form the subject of discussions on the blog - the reading list is an interesting and varied selection of classic feminist texts (about half of which I've read, some only in part, several which I've intended to read but never quite gotten round to, and others which I hadn't thought to but am now thoroughly looking forward to reading this year). Anyone can participate and add their blog; I hope to do so, as it will be interesting to read a range of feminist perspectives on and responses to these texts, as well as writing about my own thoughts on these texts.

First up this month is Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (I'll be getting stuck in just as soon as I've dealt with the pre-term to-do list that seems to have taken on a life of its own in my holiday absence...)

Happy 2011!

July 13, 2009

"Between the Covers" @ The Women's Library

Writing about web page

"Between the Covers: Women's Magazines and their Readers" is the current exhibition at The Women's Library, which I finally got to visit this weekend. The exhibition brought together a fascinating collection of magazines, following their development from the late 17th century (the first magazine was dated back to the 1690s and the earliest exhibit on display was from the 1770s) up to the present day. The content of magazines had unsurprisingly remained somewhat consistent throughout the years, with an emphasis on beauty and fashion in particular, but shifts in how different themes were addressed reflected the changing conceptions of "femininity"; different readerships were also, of course, an issue with a split in the market occurring from the early 20th century. The relationship between magazines and the different waves of women's liberation movements was interesting, as magazines played an important role right from the earliest formations of feminism in the 19th century, and more recently in second-wave feminism. Supplementing the many visual resources were recordings of interviews with women that had been highly instrumental in the development of magazines in the latter part of the twentieth century, such as Sue O'Sullivan, editor of feminist magazine Spare Rib.

It was particularly interesting to visit this exhibition with my mother who could not only remember the magazines that had been influential for women of her era - from the first magazines aimed at teenage girls in the late '60s, through to those for career women of the '80s - but could also recall the magazines that my Grandma read in the 1950s: it was surprising just how dated and old-fashioned these now looked, with their knitting patterns and articles on the Royal Family as the "celebrity" culture of the day!

I'm not a reader of any women's magazines, far preferring the content of online feminist magazines/blogs like The F-Word, and it would've been interesting if the exhibition had considered how the internet has changed (if indeed it has) the demands on publication of women's magazines- there are a number of feminist publications in print such as Subtextbut these often struggle to maintain a wide readership (in stark contrast to the vast and ever-growing amount of cheap tat like Heat etc. that seem increasingly pervasive on the magazine racks) but the internet has enabled feminist content to reach a wider population than it's even been able to achieve through print distribution.

The exhibition continues to run until the end of August, and it's definitely worth a visit- I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for future events at The Women's Library as it seems they have a wonderful collection of resources to be discovered.

March 15, 2009

Women Writing Space, Saturday 7th March 2009 @ University of Warwick

After several months of planning, the conference I have been organising is now over. It was, I felt, a very successful day: everything ran smoothly and to time, the papers were excellent and engaging, and the 50 delegates all seemed to enjoy themselves! Aside from all the organisational experience I gained, the day was academically beneficial to me as well and I got a lot out of all the papers (the advantage of having selected all the papers ourselves, a day of pure intellectual indulgence!). Arina and I will be writing a report on the conference in the next few weeks, for now I wanted to blog my thoughts on and responses to the papers whilst everything is fresh in my mind.

The day got off to an exciting start with Rosa Ainley's keynote presentation titled "Interstitial practices: Crossing the Threshold in 2 Ennerdale Drive, a memoir of a house". Rosa began with a discussion of her work as a writer - describing that she "writes spaces into existence" through text, image and sound - and identified the common theme running through her current projects as a concern with "interstitial" spaces. This notion of "interstitial" spaces/practices denotes sites of border crossings, in-between spaces; it's a concept that really interests me as my work on journeys is concerned with between-spaces, and I really like this idea of the space at the interstices as a way to describe/explore/engage with such spatial instances. Rosa's current projects provided the material for further discussion of this in the presentation, beginning with "design for a waiting room" (e-published on outsidedge) which raised ideas concerning the in-between nature of spaces designated to waiting: spaces of public/private thresholds, transformative spaces where one passes from one state to another. The project of the presentation's title, 2 Ennerdale Drive provided the main focus for discussion; this work is "memoir" of a 1920s suburban family house, a process of writing the building into a textual space. Here issues of the public-private threshold were explored by focusing on the hallway, a space that is typically overlooked in studies of houses but provides a rich site for exploration in its mediation of interior and exterior space, a place of welcome and separation. Rosa finished by discussing the blurring of interdisiplinary boundaries that this kind of work entails: architecture, literature, and critical and creative writing are all involved - and Rosa posited that one way of describing her work is as a "digital A Room of One's Own". I'm still mulling over a lot of the ideas contained in the paper and I'm sure I'll continue to do so in the coming weeks.

The first of the three panels was on "Contemporary Urban Spaces". Katherine Cox began with the paper "Queering the Maze: Representations of Gendered Space in Jeanette Winterson's The Passion" which offered a detailed exploration of historical representations of the maze and labyrinth before considering their representation in Winterson's novel. Central to this were issues of gender, and Katherine detailed the ancient associations of the labyrinth, often associated with feminine sexuality through depictions of a dangerous, enticing, womb-like space. Winterson's city-labyrinth of Venice engages with these historical representations but in such a way that she constructs the city as a space for multiple gendered possibilities, a disruptive and contestatory site that escapes a single gendered identity. Zoe Skoulding followed with her paper "City Space, history and quotation: Redell Olsen and Frances Presley" which used the theoretical framework of postmodern geography to explore the role of history and quotation in representations of urban space in the works of these two contemporary poets. I was very interested by this use of Doreen Massey's and Gillian Rose's work, and the interpretation of the poets positioned Olsen's work as constructing a space-time that accords with Rose's notion of paradoxical space. Massey's ideas about the "clash of trajectories" in urban environments were also brought into the discussion, especially in Presley's work in which spatial movement is of great significance. Fabiola Popa's paper on "Identity Shaped by Space in the work of Penelope Lively" concluded the panel with discussion of the relationship between space and identity in Lively's work. A series of dichotomies- nature/culture, urban/rural, and public/private - provided the framework for the analysis, providing contrasts which, she argued, often intertwine to construct a sense of identity.

The focus thus far was on contemporary issues of space and gender but with the last session of the morning, the second keynote presentation by historian Lynne Walker, we moved into the realm of Victorian spaces with the paper "Going Public: Victorian Women, Identity and Space". The presentation looked at three writers who lived and worked within a short distance of each other in Bloomsbury in the 1880s: Adeline Sergeant, Mary Augusta Ward, and Agnes Garrett. All of these women worked from home and were also involved in philanthropic projects a short distance from their homes; as such, their domestic spaces provide interesting sites to explore given that they function as both private home and public work spaces. A fascinating analysis of these domestic spaces ensued - involving some wonderful late-Victorian photographs- with Lynne questioning how their domestic spaces were employed, and positing that the spatial practices of creating these domestic/work spaces were central to the construction of their identities as women writers; further, their identities as successful writers are represented in the textual spaces they create. Although working within a different historical context, the paper drew on some similar themes to the preceding presentations: the public/private realms were of particular importance given the blurring of home/work spaces; and the significance of spatiality in identity construction was central to Lynne's discussion, as she identified how creating these spaces offered the possibility for the contested subject positions of women writers to be constructed into a more respectable identity through the production of particularly gendered spaces. Lynne's paper not only raised some interesting qestions about gender and spatial construction but also demonstrated how productively the analysis of "real", material spaces can be integrated into the analysis of "imagined" textual spaces.

The afternoon consisted of two panels. The first of these, "Nation Spaces", centred around themes of home and belonging in the mid-20th Century. Rebecca D'Monte's paper "The Home Front: Women Dramatists During the Second World War" looked at women playwrites' theatrical representations of "home" during the period 1939-1945. At a time of great instability, "home" could no longer function as a stable concept and often featured as a counter to notions of safe domesticity; such representations entailed a redefinition of the relationship between gender and space, which was situated within the wider context of the blurring of public and private spheres in Britain at this time. Ann Hoag's paper "Re-mapping Home: Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" looked at West's 1942 text, a piece of travel writing about Yugoslavia. Although concerned with a space away from England, the textual depiction of Yugoslavia repeatedly refers back to England and thus creates a textual mapping of England onto Yugoslavian land, imaginatively re-constructing Yugoslavia as "home". This representation of a foreign space as "home"- treating the space-away as a blank canvas for a projected, imagined, spatiality- strongly resonates with the Imperial mindset that is recurrent in spatial representations in nineteenth-century travel writing, and in discussion after the panel Ann confirmed that there are certainly problematic elements of Imperialism apparent in West's writing, as demonstrated in this use of spatiality. Emma Short's paper on "Home, the Body and Belonging in Elizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart" finished the session by positioning questions of home and nationality in the context of corporeality and embodied experience, as well as postcolonial theories of exile and belonging; Bowen's novel was situated by Short as existing within a hybrid, liminal sphere, in which the meaning of "home" is uncertain and unstable.

The final panel of the day, "Victorian Borders and Boundaries", returned to issues of gender and space in the nineteenth century. Kate Garner began by addressing the issue of "Mapping the female body in George Eliot's 'Janet's Repentance' and Kate Atkinson's Human Croquet". Kate explored the relationship between the female body and maps of the rural period, concentrating on the maternal body and ideas of maternal spaces. In 'Janet's Repentance', spatial marginality is determined by maternality and the journey of Janet positions her on the "outskirts" (a word which Garner offered an interesting gendered exploration of); Kate Atkinson's text explores the transgression of spatial borders and similarly maps the "mother town" to explore the heroine's isolation. Mary Mullen followed with a discussion of "The Space of the Age: Historicizing the Present in Aurora Leigh" which introduced a new spatial theme to the conference by raising the question of the relationship between space and time. Mary discussed the idea of "spatialized time", positing that Barret Browning's notion of the historical age is a spatial concept that offers a new way of thinking about literary periodisation. Lastly, Henriette Donner's paper "Writing from the 'Third Space': Charlotte Bronte's Villette" considered the novel as an immigrant novel concerned with the politics of the third space. Henriette offered a detailed exploration of what the "third space" entails, identifying it not as a "multicultural" space but rather an informal space in which the immigrant voice can speak from the intersection between two nationalities. Although this is a contemporary concept, Bronte's representation of Lucy Snowe's experience in the town of Villette positions Lucy within a "third space", drawing out the challenges of it whilst allowing Lucy a liminal position that is ultimately transformative of cultural meanings.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and although it was busy and a little stressful at times, it was wonderful to sit down to such fascinating papers- we were very grateful for such interesting contributions from all the speakers. The conference website has now been taken down but I have put all the abstracts and speakers' biographies onto the conference page on my eportfolio.

February 06, 2009

Women Writing Space Conference – 2 weeks left to register


There are just 2 weeks left to register for "Women Writing Space: Representations of Gender and Space in post-1850 British Women's Writing" taking place at the University of Warwick on 7th March 2009.

Booking forms and further information about the conference can be found on the conference website

Any enquiries may be directed to the conference organisers:

Charlotte Mathieson:

Arina Lungu:

December 18, 2008

Women Writing Space Conference: Provisional Programme announced and Registration now open

Women Writing Space: Representations of Gender and Space in post-1850 British Women's Writing

Registration is now open for this conference, taking place at the University of Warwick on 7th March 2009.

Booking forms can be found on the conference website:

Any further enquiries may be directed to the conference organisers, Arina Lungu and Charlotte Mathieson:

Provisional Programme:

09.30 – 10.00   Registration; tea and coffee (Graduate Space, 4th Floor, Humanities)

10.00 – 10.10   Welcome and Introduction     (H545, 5th Floor, Humanities)

10.10-11.00      Lynne Walker (London)


11.00 - 11.15    Tea and Coffee (Graduate Space, 4th Floor, Humanities)


11.15-12.35      Panel 1: Contemporary Urban Spaces           (H545) Chair: tbc

Katharine Cox (Cardiff)

‘Queering the Maze: Representations of Gendered Space in Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion

Zoë Skoulding (Bangor)

‘City Space, History and Quotation: Redell Olsen and Frances Presley’

Fabiola Popa (Bucharest)

‘Identity Shaped by Space in the work of Penelope Lively’

12.35-12.45      Comfort Break

12.45-13.35      Rosa Ainley (London Metropolitan)


13.35-14.30      Lunch (Café Humanities, Ground Floor, Humanities)


14.30-15.50      Panel 2: Nation Spaces          (H545) Chair: tbc

Rebecca D’Monté (University of the West of England)

‘The Home Front: Women Dramatists during the Second World War’

Ann Hoag (Trinity College Dublin)

‘Re-mapping Home: Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Emma Short (Newcastle)

‘We’ve All Got To Live Somewhere: ‘Home’, The Body And ‘Belonging’ in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart’


15.50 – 16.10   Tea and Coffee (Graduate Space, 4th Floor, Humanities)


16.10 - 17.30 Panel 3: Victorian Borders and Boundaries         (H545) Chair: tbc


Kate Garner (Cardiff)

‘‘Her human geography sublime’: Mapping the female body in George Eliot’s ‘Janet’s Repentance’ and Kate Atkinson’s Human Croquet

Mary Mullen (Wisconsin/ Warwick)

‘The Space of the Age: Historicizing the Present in Aurora Leigh

Henriette Donner (York University, Toronto)

‘Writing from the ‘Third Space’: Charlotte Bronte’s Villette’  


17.30 – 18.30   Wine reception (Graduate Space, 4th Floor, Humanities)

October 31, 2008

Women Writing Space Conference


A quick update on the conference that I'm organising, "Women Writing Space: Representations of Gender and Space in post-1850s British Women's Writing". The deadline for paper proposals was yesterday, and we have had an overwhelming response to the call for papers- I thought we were doing well when a week ago we had around 20 abstracts, but the last-minute response has been phenomenal (especially yesterday, 18 more suddenly came in!) so we now have over 50 proposals to read!! Given that we can only accept around 8, it is going to be very difficult to decide on a programme. Whilst many of the prospective participants are from the UK (including much support from our Warwick colleagues), I'm amazed at the international response from a range of different countries and it's wonderful to see that this topic has prompted so much interest from around the world.

So onto the difficult, but enjoyable, task of reading all the abstracts- time to get reading!

August 21, 2008

Event at the Women's Library

Writing about web page

Another travel-related find, this time at the Women's Library: Women Transport Pioneers in the Gaumont Graphic Newsreels (1910-1932) taking place on Thursday 11th September at 7pm. As the website says:

The Gaumont Graphic, held by ITN Source on behalf of Reuters, is a silent newsreel that played at British cinemas from 1910 to 1932. Using excerpts of footage this talk looks at some of the pioneers who changed the face of travel and transport. Women featured include actor Dorothy Jordan, aviators Amy Johnson, Mary du Caurroy and Amelia Earhart, and speed boat racers Marin Barbara ‘Betty’ Carstairs and Mrs Victor Bruce.

I might try and get to this as I've been wanting to visit The Women's Library for some time now and am attending an event in London the next day anyway. If I can take the time out from writing, I'll make a day of it with this exhibition too:

May 22, 2008

CALL FOR PAPERS: Women Writing Space

Writing about web page

Women Writing Space: Representations of Gender and Space in post-1850 British Women's Writing

7th March 2009, University of Warwick



Rosa Ainley (freelance artist and writer, editor of New Frontiers of Space, Bodies and Gender)

Dr. Deborah Parsons (University of Birmingham)

Professor Linda McDowell (St John’s College, Oxford)

Dr. Lynne Walker (University of London)


In the second half of the 20th century space has become a reference point of cultural debates. Feminist critics have been particularly receptive to the new findings in this field, and set out to explore the specificity of the relationship between gendered subjects and the spaces they inhabit.

This one-day conference invites papers from a range of disciplines, reflecting the scope of contemporary feminist interest in spatial configurations. The conference will address the issue of “how British women writers represent space”, considering questions such as, how do women writers construct literary space? What types of spaces/places are represented in works by women? How are received notions of space/place interpreted, accepted, or contested? How do we theorise the textual spaces in women’s writing?

We welcome papers covering British women’s writing over a period ranging from the mid-19th century to the present. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • the theory of “separate spheres” and its cultural/literary contestations;
  • enclosed places, spaces of confinement;
  • “Woman and the City”: the female flâneur;
  • feminist dystopias/utopias;
  • bodies in space/sexuality and space;
  • borders and boundaries, liminality;
  • theorising textual spaces through women’s writing;
  • the (in)visibility of women’s position on social/cultural/ethnic maps.

Please send a 300-word proposal for 20-minute papers by 30th October 2008 to the conference organisers, Arina Lungu and Charlotte Mathieson, at: or

For further information and a booking form, please contact Sue Dibben at the Humanities Research Centre, or visit the conference website:

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