CFP : "Grace King of New Orleans : Beyond Local Color"

"Grace King of New Orleans : Beyond Local Color" International Conference Université de Lorraine, Metz, 9-11 October 2014

Grace Elizabeth King (1852-1932) is perhaps best known today for her
frequently anthologized story entitled “The Little Convent Girl,” first
published in 1893 ; but she was actually a prolific writer who was highly
regarded as a woman of letters during her lifetime. Her work covers a great
variety of genres, from fiction (3 novels, 2 novellas, 3 collections of
stories and 14 uncollected stories, a play) to history and biography
(especially the colonial history of Louisiana, her native state, and the
lives of several Louisianans) ; she is also the author of an autobiography
and of numerous magazine articles and sketches. Interest in King’s work
waned during the last years of her life, mostly because she was still
writing about the past instead of contemporary events, but also because she
was recognized as a member of the Local Color school – already considered a
minor genre by the turn into the 20th century. In other words, she
encountered the same fate as another female writer who used New Orleans and
Louisiana as a backdrop for her stories and was also labelled a local
colorist, the now celebrated Kate Chopin.
Interest in Grace King was revived in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Instrumental in
this respect were Robert Bush’s anthology (Grace King of New Orleans : A
Selection of her Writings, 1973) and, a decade later, biography of King
(Grace King : A Southern Destiny, 1983), as well as Anne Goodwyn Jones’s
chapter in her 1981 study of seven women writers from the South (Tomorrow is
Another Day). Feminist critics also became interested in her when they
realized that her fiction was centered on the ways in which women’s lives
(both black and white) were affected by the socio-historical context of the
Civil War and Reconstruction in New Orleans. King may be a local colorist in
many regards, but the themes that recur in her fiction, her treatment of
them, her use of irony, her handling of language (in particular dialect) and
of structure, as well as her style, enable her to escape the sentimentality
and nostalgia associated with the Local Color school and therefore to
transcend the limits of the genre.
This conference will be the eighth meeting of the European Study Group of
Nineteenth Century American Literature, a group that was established during
the biennial EAAS conference in Cyprus and has met annually since its
creation. The group’s meetings have been hosted by different universities in
countries as varied as Poland, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain and Romania.
This year’s conference is organized by the research center I.D.E.A.
(Interdisciplinarité dans le monde Anglophone) and sponsored by Université
de Lorraine and Nanterre-based research group FAAAM (Femmes Auteurs
Anglo-Américaines). It aims at exploring various aspects of Grace King’s
fictional works in order to show that her portrait of New Orleans society
and her depiction of women’s predicament were not only insightful but
actually quite subversive ; it also aims at fostering renewed scholarly
interest in her.

We welcome contributions touching upon various areas, either on “The Little
Convent Girl” or on King’s other works of fiction. Topics that can be
addressed include (but are not limited to) gender, genre, race (and possibly
how those three interact), sexuality, the color-line, myth, history, region,
cultural milieus/cultural landscape of New Orleans, southernness, language
(in particular King’s use of the vernacular and of French), intertextual
connections (for ex. with George Washington Cable or Kate Chopin),
modernity/modernism, southern gothic.

Please submit 250-word abstracts no later than July 15, 2014, to Brigitte
Zaugg at brigitte.zaugg@orange.fr