Conference Report: The F-Word in Contemporary Women’s Writing

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The Traditional PG CWWN Conference Cake

The F-Word in Contemporary Women’s Writing

 Queens University, Belfast

4-5 April, 2013

The fourth biennial PG CWWN conference was held over two consecutive days in a surprisingly sunny Belfast, despite the remnants of snow lurking in the background. The F-word was scheduled to coincide with the centenary of one of the most infamous acts during the suffragette campaign: the death of Emily Davidson Wilding. The cross-genre approach of this conference celebrated the achievements made by contemporary women’s writing and its role in highlighting the distance we still have to cover to achieve full gender equality. With a keynote address by Diane Negra, training by the CWWA’s Helen Davies, as well as a diverse range of papers from PGRs and ECRs, this PG CWWN conference explored the place of feminism(s) within literary and scholarly writing. Held at a time when feminism within the academy is threatened by increasing cuts, it served to remind scholars of the diversity and importance of feminism as both a theoretical framework and as an active, critical movement.

The conference welcomed delegates from a variety of research backgrounds, including, literature, psychology and the social sciences, serving to highlight the diversity of feminisms within the academy and the value and benefit of these diverse yet related theoretical frameworks. The range of papers was extensive, discussing many varied topics including erotica, myth, detective fiction and manga, and dealing with the various intersections between different forms of feminism(s), media, culture and historical timeframes. The papers certainly reflected the hugely diverse range of opinions and promoted interesting and lively discussion, both during the panels and over coffee – and cake!

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Delegates enjoying the Conference Dinner

As well as this invaluable opportunity to discuss such a range of research on feminism(s), delegates were also lucky enough to share Dr. Helen Davies’ knowledge of early career publishing in a workshop session. This extremely informative session for postgraduate delegates regarding the ‘who, how, where and when’ of early career publishing was regarded by the conference delegates as an invaluable resource in what can seem a minefield! Given the current REF climate, this was a very timely workshop for all those postgraduates and early career researchers who are already wondering how they fit into the next potential REF call.

The keynote address by Diane Negra (University College Dublin), entitled ‘Claiming Feminism: Commentary, Autobiography and Advice Literature for Women in the Recession’, presented research and opinion on several autobiographies written over the last decade by high profile women, including Caitlin Moran and Ana Moura. Setting the tone for the conference, this fantastic Keynote focused on the difficulties of presenting an acceptable face of feminisms to engage the public in issues surrounding the movement, Diane Negra’s fascinating paper provoked much discussion among delegates regarding the ‘fluffy’ feminism, or neo-patriarchalism, offered in such autobiographies, and posited the question of how, as feminist scholars, we can mitigate the effects of this socially acceptable stance and if we can learn something from it.

All in all, this was a fabulous, well-organised and informative conference as always, which achieved everything it set out to do due to the hard work of the (then current) Steering Group. It was, however, extremely sad to lose Dr Claire O’ Callaghan and Cat McGurren, who stepped down from the PG CWWN Steering Group at the conference. We, as two of the four new Steering Group members, and along with the rest of the PG CWWN Steering Group, would like to express our thanks to Claire and Cat for everything they have done for the PG CWWN in their time with the Network.

Adele Cook and Claire Cowling

University of Bedfordshire and University of Hull

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