Northeast Modern Language Association
43rd Annual Convention
March 15-18, 2012
Rochester, New York–Hyatt Rochester
Host Institution: St. John Fisher College
Keynote speaker: Jennifer Egan, 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad
Call for Papers: “Evil” Children in Film, Literature, and Popular Culture
In 2010, Meredith O’Hayre published The Scream Queen’s Survival Guide, which promised to teach us how, if suddenly plunged into a horror movie, we could conquer its clichés and emerge if not unscathed, then at least alive. In the subtitle of the book, O’Hayre gives three brief directives. Specifically, she tells us to Avoid Machetes, Defeat Evil Children, and Steer Clear of Bloody Dismemberment. That evil children are mentioned alongside machetes and dismemberment speaks to the serious and pervasive threat they have come to represent within the horror genre. Evil children have become such a common plot device that the Internet Movie Database, imdb.com, allows you to search for films using the keyword of “evil child,” and Netflix even lets you cater your “Storylines” taste preferences to announce that you “often” watch movies that feature “evil kids,” thus ensuring that Netflix will make relevant recommendations for you in the future.
From the possibly possessed Miles and Flora in The Turn of the Screw to the feral children in Lord of the Flies to the demonic Damien in The Omen, evil children take on various forms. Some are corrupted by external influences—violent media, abuse, or Satan himself. Others, as the title of William March’s 1954 novel suggests, are simply “bad seeds,” inheritors of morally deficient genes and rotten to the core from birth. To discuss evil children as a singular trope would thus disregard the variations in their form and function. For this panel, I am seeking papers that address the role that evil children play in specific literary texts, films, and popular culture. Are they repositories for particular cultural anxieties? Emblems of historical changes to the family unit? Responses to juvenile crime? Markers of evolutions in psychological theories of selfhood? How do evil children reflect shifting views of innocence and depravity, redemption and sin? Are they a product of Freudian thought? If not, do pre-Freudian evil children differ from their post-Freudian counterparts? Papers may address texts from any time period or country, and I am particularly interested in examinations that are situated within a historical or cultural context.
Please send 250-500-word abstracts and one-page CV (as well as any questions) to Karen J. Renner (Northern Arizona University) at email@example.com. Materials should be submitted as attachments by September 30, 2011, with your subject line as “2012 NeMLA Abstract” and should include the following information: name, affiliation, email address, postal address, telephone number, and A/V requirements (if any; note A/V has $10 handling fee to be paid with registration).