CFP: Jane Austen and the Making of Regency Whiteness

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Editors: Kerry Sinanan , University of Texas at San Antonio and Mariam Wassif, Carnegie Mellon University.  

For review with SUNY Press, Long Nineteenth Century Series 

Jane Austen and the Making of Regency Whiteness unsettles Austen criticism to re-examine her  novels’ centrality to forging whiteness in the eighteenth century. This “whiteness  project” (Gerald Horne) is reproduced by Austen cultures, afterlives, and adaptations, with global  ramifications. This volume gathers essays from scholars working at the intersections of Critical  Race and Black Studies, Indigenous methodologies, and Postcolonial theory, to argue that  Austen’s novels are fundamentally about making white, Anglo subjects of empire who are  located in a specific historical period. The Regency whiteness produced in the novels continues  to have a huge impact and desirability as Austen is exported, reproduced, and consumed globally.  The volume will show that it is specifically the making of Regency white people that has granted  Austen her global, iconic status today.  

While Edward Said and more recent postcolonial critics have long argued that Austen and  empire are interwoven, what has not yet been fully discussed is the powerful race-making work  that Austen’s novels perform and the global significance of this work in forging white  subjectivity as universal. Austen’s cultural force is part of the assimilationist, universalizing  territorial and cultural conquest of the British empire, promulgating a myth of “originality” that  enables a sweeping universal signifying of Regency whiteness as a desired norm. Jane Austen  and the Making of Regency Whiteness understands Austen as Shakespeare’s heir in this making  of the white, Anglo subject who comes to stand in for the universal human (see White People in  Shakespeare ed. Arthur Little). In Mansfield Park (1816) Henry Crawford declares,  “Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is part of an Englishman’s  constitution.” Austen draws frequently on the works of Shakespeare and Milton to create a  cultural-moral center at the heart of her works: reading shapes her heroines’ inner virtue and  social sensibilities, as well as those of her male characters. It forges them as white “English”  people. This volume focuses on how culturally and historically contextualized whiteness in the  novels has been mobilized, transhistorically and transgeographically, to signify on a global scale. 

Austen’s novels produce norms of romance, satire, and comedy which are codified and  disseminated as universal, when in fact these modes, and the morals they espouse, understood to  be central to “literature,” are coterminous with British imperial expansion and settler  colonialism. While some adaptations and fandom practices contest this whiteness, many of them  reproduce it.  

We invite a broad range of contributors from both inside and outside of the academy to  ensure that the collection has relevance for instructors, scholars, students, fans of Austen, social  media enthusiasts, and those in the heritage and adaptation industries.  

This project has been invited for review by SUNY Press for the Studies in the Long  Nineteenth Century series. Please send abstracts of 500 words by 1 April to  kerry.sinanan@utsa.ed and mwassif@andrew.cmu.edu.  

Topics may include: 

Milton and Whiteness in Austen  

Shakespeare and Whiteness in Austen  

Muslin and Cotton  

Hindutva and Austen  

Men of Empire and Austen  

Challenging whiteness in Austen in inclusive fandoms and adaptations  

White women, Romance and Austen  

Embroidery and white femininity  

Chastity and white femininity  

Women’s wit and whiteness  

Landed property as whiteness in Austen  

Classical Culture and whiteness  

Geographies of Whiteness in Austen  

Austen at the Borderlands  

Money, empire, and whiteness in Austen  

Protestantism, Austen and Empire  

Fashion, whiteness and Austen  

Art, materiality and the making of Regency whiteness  

Slavery and racial capital in making Regency whiteness  

The music of Regency whiteness in Austen  

National Trust and Heritage cultures of whiteness  

Austen and the Landed gentry  

Class and Whiteness in Austen  

Racism and Whiteness in Austen Fandoms