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Narratives of Coercive Control

An International Conference at the University of York,

19-20 April 2024

Featuring a virtual Q&A with Carmen Maria Machado 


a keynote lecture from Professor Simon Stern

*Conference Programme*

Bringing together literary critics, legal historians, and creative practitioners, this conference will provide the first in-depth analysis of literary representations of coercive control. We invite proposals for 20-minute papers or creative submissions that draw out ways in which coercive control has been identified and interrogated by writers from the 1800s to the present day. 

In 2015, domestic violence legislation in England and Wales was extended to include ‘threats, humiliation and intimidation’ and ‘a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent’. This conference will show how the crime of coercive control has a long and disturbing history in fiction, poetry, and drama, helping to shape understandings of psychological abuse within the academy and beyond. 

The conference will examine the complex dialogue between literature and legal change, exploring how narratives first anticipate legislation, and then help to publicise, understand, and enact it.​ By investigating imaginative writing as a significant yet often overlooked or trivialised driver of legal reform, the conference will develop cross-disciplinary research methodologies and generate scholarship with genuine social and political impact. Key questions may include:


  • How have narratives of surveillance, regulation, and sustained psychological abuse anticipated and underscored legal change?

  • How do narratives of coercive control empower readers and amplify the voices of survivors?​

  • How have textual strategies of surveillance and regulation driven different fictions, from Victorian marriage plots and neo-Gothic mid-century melodramas to contemporary narratives of unequal unions? 

  • How might realist authorial omniscience and postmodern textual trickery be read as metafictional meditations on coercive control? 


Topics may include (but are not limited to):


  • representations of coercive control in fiction, poetry, drama, or life writing;

  • representations of coercive control in other media forms, including radio, film, television, podcasts, and visual arts and cultures;

  • the psychological, social, or educational impact of imaginative literature about coercive control;

  • intersectional approaches to research on coercive control;

  • coercive control in LGBTQ+ relationships and literature;

  • ways in which narratives of coercive control anticipate or foreshadow legislative change; 

  • ways in which legal changes might generate plots of coercive control.


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