Call for Papers

The concept of villainy is a universal: the dichotomy of good versus evil has been a central conflict underlying ideologies and praxis across cultures and time. What is a hero, after all, without the villain as a foil? Evil Incarnate: Manifestations of Villains and Villainy asks: What defines villainy? Is it moral? Cultural? Inherent or the product of circumstance? How are villains represented textually, culturally, and politically? What does the presence of the villain do to the issues in which they are embedded? How would the issues change in their absence? By exploring the concept of villainy as it manifests itself, we want to explore the various permutations of villainy and their consequences.

Ultimately, we seek definition for villains in an attempt to overturn the characterizing of this pursuit as "[T]he motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity," because, unfortunately, the designation of evil incarnate is also that of villainy beyond understanding (S.T. Coleridge). Instead, this conference asks whether W.H. Auden provided a more accurate depiction in his assertion that "evil is unspectacular and always human." We hope that by coming to terms with villains and villainy, we can better understand the meaning of a hero's victory.

We are interested in papers from a variety of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Villains and crime in literature and/or fiction
  • Villains and monsters in the media / media constructions of villainy
  • Moral transgression, evil, and villainy
  • The making of national enemies
  • Evil and history
  • Evil as a necessity
  • Monsters across cultures
  • What causes evil
  • Aliens and alienation
  • Supernatural evil and the occult
  • Political villains, such as dictators, tyrants, fascists, and/or Nazis
  • Terrorists
  • Criminality in society
  • Holocausts

Please send abstracts of 300 words for presentations of 20 minutes to by February 1, 2014. The abstract should include a 50-word biographical note and AV requests. Please indicate whether you wish the abstract to be considered for inclusion in the post-conference publications. We will send notifications of acceptance by February 28, 2014.

Conference Organizers: Dr. Malcah Effron and Dr. Brian Johnson, English Department, Case Western Reserve University
Conference Sponsors: CWRU Department of English, The Laura & Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, and the Crime Studies Network
Contact Information:
Abstract Deadline: February 1, 2014