Lee Child Symposium - 31 March - 1 April 2022
Call for Proposals - deadline 31 August 2021
The University of East Anglia, UK, is proud to announce an international symposium dedicated to the writing of Lee Child, a key figure in contemporary crime fiction, and creator of the world-renowned Jack Reacher series.
Hosted by the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing and by the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW), this symposium celebrates the official opening of the archive of Child’s papers held at UEA. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Killing Floor (1997), which introduced the inimitable Jack Reacher, whose fight for justice, on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed, has become a series hallmark. Reacher is a modern reworking of the mythic hero, a perpetual loner and outlaw.
Unlike many contemporary series that depict the evolving personal life of a protagonist who ages from novel to novel, Child refuses to develop Reacher's biographical narrative arc. A further break from tradition is the peripatetic nature of his series, which sees Reacher rove across the varied topographies of the USA and Europe. Freedom of movement has allowed Child, in his fiction, to document America’s often-overlooked hinterland of prairies, small towns, highways, motels, diners, in all their varied iterations. Close attention to place/setting is a striking feature of Child’s work, as is the writing itself, with his signature style of precise, assured and rhythmic prose.
This UEA symposium is the first event to invite scholarly consideration of Child’s writing. The Jack Reacher series has attracted a global following along with literary prizes and critical acclaim – all of which are testament to Child’s skills as an author and his championing of the thriller form – yet his writing has garnered little academic attention to date.
The focus of the symposium will be Child’s work, but we are also interested in papers that offer comparisons with other authors, or that situate his series in a wider appraisal of the crime genre (historical/contemporary etc.), or that assess his impact on current global trends.
Related topics are also sought. For example, papers that examine how an archive can inspire creative writers and inform critical analysis, or papers that explore the explore the boundaries between different literary modes, such as the crime genre, literary fiction, and ‘the bestseller’.
Lee Child is among that select group of authors whose crime series have longevity and a readership of 100 million+. The Reacher novels have been translated into 50 languages and been adapted for film and TV. Among the questions this symposium aims to address are what factors have contributed to Jack Reacher’s enduring appeal, and how has the craft behind the character helped create this iconic status.
The symposium will take an inter-disciplinary approach, and we welcome proposals that study Child’s writing from the perspective of literary critical theory and creative practice, alongside other disciplines such as film studies, criminology, archival studies, cultural geography, and translation studies. As well as showcasing Lee Child’s archive at UEA, the symposium seeks to generate new and innovative approaches to the author’s fiction and working methods.
Topics may include but are not restricted to:
Emerging trends in the crime genre – from the 1990s to the post-truth era
Global, and specifically the Global South, approaches to the thriller
Fictions that navigate the relationships between personal justice, social justice, and the rule of law
Politics and the thriller form – subverting a traditionally right-wing agenda
The outlaw/loner figure – historical/contemporary/global and post-modern perspectives
Mythology and transcultural archetypes
Gender and identity in the 21st-century thriller
Heroes/anti-heroes, villains, victims
Anonymity, mobility, borders – living off-grid in a digital age
Literary treatment of ‘place’ and ‘mapping’
Rewriting ‘Small-Town America’
Transatlanticism – ventriloquising the USA as a UK author
Craft of creative writing – prose style, rhythm, structure, etc.
Lee Child’s influence on the crime genre
Character construction in series fiction and series longevity
Adaptation – the transition to film and TV
Translating narratives into multiple languages
The symposium will take place on Friday 1 April 2022 at The Enterprise Centre, UEA, Norwich, UK (in the expectation of being face-to-face). A public event is planned for the evening before, Thursday 31 March, featuring an interview with Lee Child, due to appear in person. Along with the symposium there will be a public exhibition of selected items from the Lee Child archive. Speakers at the symposium will also have the opportunity to examine further material during a private tour of Child’s papers at the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, UEA.
Please send 300-word proposals to Dr Elspeth Latimer, Dr Nathan Ashman and Tom Benn at email@example.com by 31st August 2021. The abstract should include the title of your paper, your name, email address, university affiliation (if applicable), and a brief biographical note. If you have several ideas for papers, you are welcome to submit more than one abstract. Along with proposals from academics, we invite submissions from independent scholars and creative writers as well as postgraduate researchers and postdocs. Papers will be a maximum of 20 minutes in length. Any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We very much look forward to reading your abstracts.