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Call for Papers    


Contextualizing Streetcar
Deadline: September 15, 2004
International Conference
(Re)Constructing Desire: Streetcar (1947/1951) in its American Contexts
10-11 December 2004
Centre de Télé-enseignement Universitaire de Nancy 2
Nancy, France

The C.T.U. of Université Nancy 2 is announcing a call for original papers on a subject relatively unexplored in Streetcar criticism: to what extent various historical events helped shape, directly or indirectly, the writing of Williams’s play, the production of Kazan’s film, or the transposing of the one to the other. While Williams scholarship has fairly exhausted certain contextual issues surrounding the play (such as the Old South/New South dialectic, the Social Darwinian influence, or the Freudian
connection) and the film (most notably its PCA censorship), few studies have made use of the available cultural critical tools and theories (e.g., new historicist, queer, Cultural Studies) to inquire into the period of the play’s/film’s construction; and for those which have, their findings have
illuminated the texts in more holistic terms alone (sexuality, ethnicity, domesticity, etc.).

Certain historically-targeted inquiries might include (though are not limited to) the following:

· How might World War 2 have affected the characters, particularly Stanley and Mitch who fought in the Italian arena? Is there, for instance, any behavioral pattern consistent with post-traumatic stress experienced by veterans, and is this trauma reproduced (or suppressed or rechanneled) in the verbal or visual language of the play/film?

· What traces of the Cold War appear in the play/film, particularly in issues of the staunch feminine/masculine binaries orchestrated in governmental rhetoric and the growing strength of HUAC after the Alger Hiss affair? How might this gendered rhetoric be found in the dramatic language
of the play or the cinematic language of the film?

· With the publication of the Kinsey report on American male sexual habits in 1948 and American female sexual habits in 1953, how might we consider the characters in the play/film as faithful reflections on or challenges to recognizable pockets of American identities? What might these identities have in common (or not) with those described by the Lynds in their Middletown Studies only a decade earlier or Masters and Johnson’s Human Sexual Response a decade later?

· What evidence is the relinguistic, dramatic, imagistic, mythic, etc. in the play/film of the future Civil Rights Movement and Williams’s and/or Kazan’s position on race relations in America?

· Given Williams’s and Kazan’s early affinities with Social Realism, what evidence is there in the play/film be it historic or aesthetic of the fallout from the Depression and the New Deal’s effect on the post-War atmosphere in America? How are the WPA’s “living newspapers” or the Group
Theatre’s/Actors Studio’s leftist commitments reproduced in the two texts?

· How does Stanley parrot the political vernacular and populist ideologies of Huey P. Long in the play/film and what effect does such demagoguery have on the other characters? On Williams’s/Kazan’s audiences? On today’s reader/spectator?

· What landmark legal battles waged in pre- or post-War America found renewed or revitalized rhetoric in the play/film?

The goal of the conference is not to favor context over text but rather to explore the rich intertext that haunts the space in between. Given the polemical histories of both artists and the politically-charged years of 1947 and 1951 in which they worked on their respective Streetcars, that space is unavoidably diachronic and thus worth recovering in order to understand more fully the texts’ (re)construction and re(con)ception.

Half-hour presentations can be written in English or in French but should conform to the Chicago style sheet (i.e., footnotes). A selection of extended presentations based on the conference proceedings will be published.


Please send your proposals (title and 500-word abstract) or
completed papers before 15 September 2004
by post to:

CTU of Université Nancy 2 42-44
avenue de la Libération
B.P. 3397
54015 NANCY Cedex

or by email attachments to John S. Bak (

To access the conference webpage, consult: