First Call

This conference emerges from the growing sense that women who were writing in English and French across Canada from the end of the 1960s through the 1970s and into the early 1980s are poised to be recovered or recontextualized by our scholarly community. This period was seminal for the women’s movement and also for literature and literary criticism in Canada. As many literary scholars active in the 1970s reach the pinnacles of their careers, and as a younger generation researches that lively feminist period, it seems timely to come together to revisit this unique era.

Certainly, there are classics from the period that are alive and well in classrooms across the country. Atwood’s Surfacing (1972), alluded to in our conference title, is one example. We might also think of Anne Hébert’s Kamouraska (1970), Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed (1973), or Marian Engel’s Bear (1976). In addition there has been sustained and renewed interest in figures such as Claire Martin, Jane Rule, and Phyllis Webb. But what about lesser-known writers who were part of this vanguard of literary feminism? How might we remember and re-theorize texts like Constance Beresford-Howe’s The Book of Eve (1973) or the early poems of B.C. Indigenous writer Mahara Allbrett (formerly Skyros Bruce)? What about writers whose voices were marginalized at the time, whose work could be uncovered today?

Beyond particular writers and books, we wish to reflect more broadly on the literary and academic “scenes” of the period in relation to writing and gender. The 1970s saw the founding of Women’s Press, La Nouvelle barre du jour, and Fireweed, and yet Barbara Godard recalled the “shock and incomprehension that greeted those first feminist critical analyses” at literary conferences of the early
1980s (“Women of Letters (Reprise)” 260-261 in Collaboration in the Feminine). We look forward to critical reminiscences and historicized reconstructions of what it was like to be a feminist critic, writer, teacher, or student during this time.

To this end, the conference will feature special round-table keynote sessions with noted scholars and critics invited to reflect on and discuss women writers and writing of the late 1960s, the 1970s, and the early 1980s in Canada, and critical literary and cultural developments during the period. Please check the conference website from time to time for updates on confirmed keynote participants.

We invite proposals on any topic related to our conference theme. Here are some examples:

  • Revisiting texts by writers such as: Adele Wiseman, Helen Weinzweig, Bronwen Wallace, Aritha van Herk, Audrey Thomas, Donna Smyth, Carol Shields, Libby Scheier, Suzanne Paradis, Libby Oughton, Alice Munro, Mary di Michele, Claire Martin, Joyce Marshall, Louise Maheux-Forcier, Andrée Maillet, Gwendolyn MacEwan, Pat Lowther, Margaret Laurence, Betty Lambert, Anne Hébert, Madeleine Gagnon, Diane Giguère, Mavis Gallant, Sylvia Fraser, Marian Engel, Solange Chaput-Rolland, Joan Clark, Adrienne Choquette, Maria Campbell, Denise Boucher, Monique Bosco, Constance Beresford-Howe, Joan Barfoot, Jeanette Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, etc…
  • Recovering works by writers currently unknown
  • The importance of this period for Indigenous women writers
  • The work of researching women writers of this era: archival research, obscure texts, logistics, permissions, etc.
  • The interconnectedness of “second wave” feminist activism and literature across Canada
  • The literary industry at the time: feminist journals, publishers, reviews, magazines (examples such as Tessera, La Vie en Rose, F.Lip, Les Editions du Remue-ménage, among others)
  • The impact of feminist scholars and critics
  • Gender and literary events (readings, conferences, festivals) of the time

Proposals of 300 words, accompanied by a title, 50-75 word abstract, and a short biographical note
(~100 words) are welcome in English or French and for a variety of presentation formats.

  • Organized panel: participants present 15 minute papers on a chaired panel topic
  • Seminar workshop: participants complete their papers in advance and distribute them to other seminar participants prior to the conference. Participants offer 10 minute reflections responding to the papers, noting connections or tensions between them. Open discussion follows.
  • Pecha Kucha: participants present a brief visual representation of their research, following
  • Pecha Kucha guidelines (i.e. 20 slides x 20 seconds each)
  • Creative session: participants read short excerpts from works in the conference time period, with a brief response comment on the selection.

Deadline for proposals: August 1, 2017. Please submit to