CFP: Issue 13 Revenge (2011)

“Vengeance offers the writer a compelling mix of
ingredients: strong situations shaped by violence; ethical issues for debate; a volatile, emotive mixture of loss and agitated grievance. The avenger, isolated and vulnerable, can achieve heroic grandeur by coming to personify nemesis.” – John Kerrigan, Revenge Tragedy

For the Autumn 2011 issue of FORUM, we invite submissons which explore representations of revenge in literature, art and film. From The Bacchae to Kill Bill, the theme of retribution has been used as a vehicle for intense scrutiny of human emotions and social conditions, and the revenge plot’s popularity as an abiding blockbuster ratings-winner testifies to its continuing cultural relevance. What is the basis for this apparent fascination with revenge How is it depicted within creative works, and do audiences’ responses alter according to perceived ethical norms? We hope to receive a wide range of articles seeking to reappraise the aesthetic and cultural implications of this “compelling mix of ingredients”.

Revenge is a multifaceted theme, encouraging diachronic and interdisciplinary approaches to examine how portrayals of vengeance change over the centuries and across cultures. Has the ancient bloodlust of classical Furies become diluted, or does revenge still dominate cultural perceptions as a valid impulse for retaliation? In Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, the target defends himself against a vengeful act by appealing to “the voice of civilisation” (34), then declares that “there can be no worse punishment than... the voice of my conscience” (41). As these quotes imply, conscience and punishment are constituent elements of the revenge plot which acquire further complexity in the context of ‘civilised’ societies. How does vengeance manifest itself in circumstances where violence is not a socially accepted response, as in institutional situations whose emphasis is on “reform” rather than “revenge”, or where “the right to punish” has shifted “from the vengeance of the sovereign to the defence of society” (Foucault, Discipline and Punish 90)? What happens when acts of recrimination extend beyond the individual or community, or are invoked as a justifiable response on an international scale? If revenge plots tend to concentrate on the individual, the motivations and effects on wider communities also play a crucial role. Is vengeance inevitably egocentric and/or cathartic? Is it less acceptable if premeditated or organised? Finally, amidst the discourse of terror which accompanies classical concepts of revenge, we must also reflect on the broad spectrum of alternative forms of retaliation – verbal, psychological, political which can often be presented as entertaining rather than harrowing or disquieting. 

We are seeking submissions that consider the topic of REVENGE in relation to concepts which include, but are not limited to:

  • Tragedy and tragic constructions, from antiquity to modernity

  • Remorse and/or reconciliation

  • Psychology, experimentation and unconscious retaliation

  • Gothic fiction, haunting and the supernatural

  • Terror, sci-fi, fantasy and inhuman sources of retribution

  • Family, honour, and cyclical patterns of violence

  • Religion, sacrifice and the individual

  • Comedy of manners, society, and popular culture

  • Romance and rivalry; the ‘crime passionnel’

  • Power, politics, infamy, and the workplace

  • Ethics and concepts of justice, crime, punishment and reform

Papers must be of between 3,000 and 5,000 words in length, formatted according to MLA guidelines. Please email your paper, a short abstract and your academic CV in separate, clearly labelled .DOC files to by Monday 3rd October 2011. All eligible articles will be peer reviewed prior to publication. Only one submission per author per issue is permissible.