Call For Chapter Outlines

Imperial Middlebrow: Cross-colonial encounters and expressions of power in middlebrow literature and culture, 1890-1940

Editors: Professor Christoph Ehland, University of Paderborn, and Dr Kate Macdonald, University of Reading

Memsahib cookbook

Phase 1 of the Imperial Middlebrow book project has produced six commissioned book chapters. Phase 2 of the project now calls for additional chapters, to be workshopped at a study day at the University of Reading on Friday 24 March 2017. The Phase 1 authors will present their chapters for group discussion and exploration of the issues, with the editors, the Phase 2 authors able to attend (Skype presentations are possible), and other interested scholars willing to contribute to the discussion. The work of the study day will enable the final book chapters to cohere and resound together as an integrated set of arguments.

The Imperial Middlebrow book project will be a wide-ranging reappraisal of the position of middlebrow writing on empires (British, French, Spanish, German) in their literary and historical contexts. We invite abstracts for chapters that explore the literary as well as the socio-political role of middlebrow writing and its markets and audiences. We are interested in reading work about propagation, naturalisation and the critique of empire by middlebrow writing, between 1890 and 1940. We are also interested in discussion of the generic proliferation of the imperial discourse in the middlebrow from children’s literature to romance and the adventure novel.


Middlebrow studies are now well established as a literary-historical critical mode by which we can investigate the overlapping research areas of literature in the late Victorian age and the early twentieth century. There are many published indicators of the strength of the discipline, since in its maturity it is extending and testing its borders, and reassessing how the middlebrow corpus grew under different cultural influences. Middlebrow is no longer solely anglophone, and needs to be reconsidered as a product of international readerly desires and needs, as well as the project of the author.

Middlebrow writing engaged with the realities and fictions of colonial life in a multitude of ways, and middlebrow writers catered for a readership eager to learn about and imagine the Empire. In particular, feminist enquiries into the Anglo-Indian novel (Moore-Gilbert 1996, Kapila 2010, Roye and Mittapalli 2013) have helped to highlight its role for the dissemination of imperial ideology. Their research has revealed not only the large amount of often almost forgotten material available for the study of middlebrow writing on the empire but also the subtle fault-lines that this engagement often exhibits.

With regard to such aspects as interracial contact or colonial legitimisation middlebrow writing can be seen as a form of anxiety management which allows unsettling issues to be raised while maintaining at least a superficial impression of narrative stability and security. In line with this development of the discipline we invite scholars working on middlebrow in an Imperial and / or colonial context to submit new chapter outlines on Imperial Middlebrow texts, authors and readerships.



31 December 2016: deadline for Phase 2 chapter outlines of no more than 250 words, to be sent to Kate Macdonald at

15 January 2017: decisions on which Phase 2 chapter outlines will be accepted

31 January 2016: receipt of previously commissioned Phase 1 chapters

28 February 2017: book proposal to be sent to publisher, with Phase 1 chapters as sample texts

24 March 2017: study day to refine the project and chapters, with the authors of Phase 1 chapters and Phase 2 outlines working together; update on publisher negotiations.

31 June 2017: deadline for receipt of Phase 1 and Phase 2 final chapters (6,000-8,000 words)

31 July 2017: complete MS to be sent to publisher with book proposal.


About Cindy

Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
This entry was posted in Department of English Literature news and events. Bookmark the permalink.