I invite proposals for a collection of essays that examines the theme of revenge in American fiction, film, and television. Vengeance – that quest for violent reciprocity – is one of storytelling’s oldest and most enduring plots. But in the modern American imaginary the familiar shape of retribution assumes a new form. Over and over, avengers on page and screen desire not only blood but also symbolic victories. In Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer (1996) a troubled protagonist named John Smith yearns to kill the one “white man [who] was responsible for everything that had gone wrong” for Native Americans. In Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis (2003), an outraged financial analyst assassinates a billionaire who upset the “balance” of global capitalism. For these characters, personal grievance turns into political statement, and payback evolves from a selfish drive into a systemic reckoning. From bloodthirsty class warriors in The Iron Heel (1908) and Absalom, Absalom! (1936) to anti-patriarchal furies of Beloved (1987) and Foxfire (1993) to contemporary assailants in The Wire (2002-2008) and Django Unchained (2012), avengers haunt American narratives.

Despite vengeance’s popularity across 20th- and 21st-century fiction, television, and film, little research on the topic exists. While scholars have thoroughly examined the classical, dramatic traditions of revenge tragedies – especially those from Attic and Elizabethan/Jacobean periods – they have left modern American iterations of the genre largely unconsidered. In fact, no book-length study dedicated to American revenge narratives exists in recent criticism.

Reckonings fixes this scholarly blind spot by historicizing the revenge genre’s unique transformations in American culture over the long century. For this anthology, I welcome essays that theorize the complex visions of retributive justice found in the nation’s stories. The volume will occupy a unique place in literary and American studies, offering critics and cultural historians a revenge genre study of unprecedented depth.

Some topics of interest are (but not limited to):

Revenge in American modernism
Revenge in graphic novels
Philosophies of retribution in contemporary fiction
Feminism, vengeance, and film
Lesser-known or avant garde treatments of the revenge genre
Avengers and environmentalism
Revenge in serial television
Depictions of vengeance and the American justice system
Science fiction and revenge
Psychology, narrative, and the science of payback
Vengeance and morality
21st century re-imaginings of the revenge tragedy
Please send a 500-700 word chapter abstract and CV to Kyle Wiggins (kwiggins@bu.edu) by September 6, 2016. I expect to include approximately 10 essays of 8,000 words each. Accepted authors must submit completed chapters by January 17, 2017.

Publication discussions with an intererested press have begun.

Deadline for submissions: September 6, 2016
Full name / name of organization: Kyle Wiggins, Boston University
Contact email: kwiggins@bu.edu