Countless ancient myths focus on male heroes whose political and sexual violence is linked to images of the hunt. At the same time, however, hunting is not always and unquestionably associated with masculinity. The same myths are also populated by hunting women – such as the Greek goddess Artemis, her nymphs Daphne, Kalisto and Echo, and mortals such as Atalante, who, after gaining access to a male hunting party through her lover, decisively wounds the Calydonian boar. Later on, in the Minnelieder songs of the Middle Ages, lovers engage in an erotic chase during which the role of the hunter and the hunted seem – at times – interchangeable. And the carefully orchestrated portraits of early modern princesses in hunting costumes bear as much witness to the subversion of gender roles as the (self-) representations of colonial huntresses since the nineteenth century.
As a symbol and technique that – in itself – seemed to gesture towards asymmetrical power structures, hunting has always served to naturalise gender difference and binarity. However, hunts and their representations always seem to open up spaces in which gender and other boundaries are not only established and consolidated, but also unsettled and blurred. Both the young man Leukippos in the ancient myth who disguises himself as a woman in order to gain access to the virgin nymph’s hunting party and the male animal in Ernst Jünger’s short story Die Eberjagd (The Boar Hunt) (1952) that is, at the moment of the kill, are transformed and can be read as ‘female’. There is an – albeit temporary – ambiguity of gender boundaries, a floundering, which seems – if not inevitably but repeatedly – to go hand in hand with the principal liminality of the hunting situation and its stagings.
These ambivalences of hunting as a cultural and symbolic practice as well as its aesthetic (literary, artistic, performative) stagings are the starting point of the conference and the publication project, which is designed to give an extensive overview of the interrelations between gender and the hunt in European cultural history. From a historical as well as intersectional perspective, we wish to examine how the interplay between actual hunting and its representations reinforced and/or destabilized certain gender images. The focus will be on the following intersecting approaches:
What role did different hunting practices and their stagings play in the construction of gender identities? When and why were which hunting practices considered specifically ‘male’ or ‘female’? Which historical caesurae inform the history of gender images when it comes to hunting: are there historical constants, epochal changes and regional differences that can be identified?
Which concepts of masculinity have been produced through the practice and representation of the hunt? Which customs, techniques and laws made hunting an effective means of demonstrating and narrating virility? Are these narratives tied to specific artistic genres? How were notions of gender difference naturalised through hunting? Which homoerotic constellations did hunting produce and sublimate?
Women on the hunt:
Which concepts of femininity were produced through hunting, its performance and aesthetic representation? Under what social and political conditions could women reinterpret hunting semantics or subvert heteronormative relations? Are narratives of female hunting bound to certain artistic genres, genres, etc. or excluded from them, and, if so, why? What needs (or fears) were expressed by narratives of mythical female hunters and the omnipresence of Artemis/Diana in images, buildings or festivals of hunting?
Female, male and other animals:
How did the relationship to wild or domestic animals such as horses and dogs affirm or subvert heteronormative gender notions? How was the pronounced sexual dimorphism reflected – especially in cases where the larger females were the preferred hunting animals, such as in the case of the goshawk or sparrowhawk? Which role did the gender of hunted animals play in empathic descriptions of the hunter’s desire and identification with the pursued animal?
To what extent is the relationship between „human“ and „animal“, „nature“ and „culture“ as well as „foreign“ and „familiar“ in literary and artistic representations of hunting gendered and to what extent is this subject to historical change? In which constellations did hunting as a technique of demonstrating superiority in terms of gender, class and race reach its limits? Did hunting also produce non-binary (gender) constellations and/or transcultural situations? To what extent are these also partly intertwined with the transgression or consolidation of social boundaries?
For these and related questions, we especially ask for suggestions for topics in literature, art and cultural studies, history and other fields. To submit send a 250 words abstract for a 20 or 30 minute paper (English/German) and a short bio to Dr. Laura Beck (email@example.com) and Prof. Dr. Maurice Saß (Maurice.Sass@alanus.edu) before December 31, 2021. Please name one of the approaches above (hunting practices, men‘s worlds, etc.) to which you would assign your proposal. Partial reimbursements of travel and/or stay may be offered. After the conference we would like to publish the results in an anthology as soon as possible.
Deadline for submissions: 31 December 2021
Applicants will be notified by 10 January 2022
Date of the conference (online or presentational in Bremen, Germany): 12–14 May 2022
Deadline for submission of manuscripts: 1 November 2022