Reading with and against the Grain: New Perspectives on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Due Date: 04-15-2019

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman is perhaps best known, read, and taught today as the author of short regionalist fiction. Subsequent to the recovery work that put her back on the map of American letters some fifty years after her death, she gained recognition in the United States and abroad at the intersection of diverse and sometimes overlapping literary critical rubrics, including New England “local color,” rebellious regionalism, and female naturalism. More recently, however, Freeman studies have taken a different set of turns, including ecofiction, trauma studies, and religious studies. New research on Freeman, invigorated by the founding of the Mary E. Wilkins Freeman Society at the 2017 meeting of the MLA in Boston, has disclosed unexpected aspects of her work. This essay collection, coedited by the three founders of the society and featuring a concluding essay by Sandra Zagarell, aims at pushing further in this direction. It does not intend so much to recover Freeman as to uncover alternative modes of reading her work.

Reading with and against the Grain aims at reflecting the diversity of our field. We welcome contributions from junior and senior scholars and graduate student scholars from the United States, Europe, United Kingdom, and elsewhere in an attempt to create a more integrated and transnational sense of Freeman studies. We are particularly interested in proposals that pressurize and redirect any aspect of Freeman’s oeuvre. Playing with frames and scales of analysis is especially welcome. Innovative critical forms are also invited.

Topics may include

  • erotic Freeman, funny Freeman, frustrating Freeman, Anglo-Saxon Freeman, capitalistic Freeman, political Freeman;
  • Freeman as a novelist, as a poet, as a playwright;
  • Freeman and masculinity, Freeman and disability, Freeman and the print cultures of her time;
  • zooming out: reading Freeman out of (her) space, out of New England, out of the United States; global Freeman; transregional Freeman; Freeman and international writers (Ibsen, Maupassant, Tolstoy); rewriting Freeman; intertextual Freeman; translating Freeman; teaching Freeman abroad;
  • reading Freeman out of (her) time: rethinking the periodization of Freeman’s studies; Freeman and the seventeenth century; Freeman and dark Romanticism (Hawthorne, Melville, and the American Renaissance); modernist Freeman; and
  • zooming in: reading Freeman periodically (in the context of the magazines she published in); reading Freeman literally, symptomatically, digitally; reading Freeman’s archives.

Submit 500-word abstracts (for papers between 6,000 and 7,000 words, including endnotes and a list of works cited using MLA format) by 15 April 2019. Notification of acceptance will be given by 15 May 2019.

Final drafts of papers must be submitted by 1 September 2019. Final articles must be submitted by late spring 2020. Send abstracts to all three editors:;;