Call for papers - Complaint and Grievance: Literary Traditions

14-15 February 2019

National Library of New Zealand / Victoria University of Wellington, NZ

‘O woe is me / To have seen what I have seen, see what I see’. Shakespeare’s Ophelia, wooed and cast aside by her one-time lover, Hamlet, amplifies her woe in the open-ended expression of grief that characterises complaint, a rhetorical mode that proliferates from the poetry of Ovid to the Bible, from the Renaissance to the modern day.

This two-day symposium explores the literature of complaint and grievance, centring on the texts of the Renaissance but welcoming contributions from related areas. Shakespeare (A Lover’s Complaint) and Spenser (Complaints) are central authors of Renaissance complaint, but who else wrote complaint literature, why, and to what effect? Female-voiced complaint was fashionable in the high poetic culture of the 1590s, but what happens to complaint when it is taken up by early modern women writers? What forms—and what purposes—does the literature of complaint and grievance take on in non-elite or manuscript spheres, in miscellanies, commonplace books, petitions, street satires, ballads and songs? What are the classical and biblical traditions on which Renaissance complaint is based? And what happens to complaint after the Renaissance, in Romantic poetry, in the reading and writing cultures of the British colonial world, in contemporary poetry, and in the #metoo movement?

Image: Artemisia Gentileschi, The Penitent Mary Magdalene (c. 1615-1625)

Keynote speakers:

Professor Danielle Clarke, University College, Dublin

Professor Kate Lilley, University of Sydney

Professor Rosalind Smith, University of Newcastle, Australia

We invite anyone with an interest in the literature of complaint and the politics of grievance to submit a 250-word paper proposal by 31 October 2018 to the conference organiser, Sarah.Ross@vuw.ac.nz.

This conference is supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund, as part of the three-year project ‘Woe is me: Women and Complaint in the English Renaissance’.