School of Arts

Penny Marshall Conference

Call for Papers

One day symposium: Reflecting on 35 years since Penny Marshall’s Big

In association with BAFTSS
University of Leicester, Friday 19 May 2023

Keynote speakers:

Dr James Russell (De Montfort University)
Dr Deborah Jermyn (University of Roehampton)

Thanks to the support of the BAFTSS event fund, The University of Leicester is hosting a one day symposium, organised by Dr Claire Jenkins, reflecting on 35 years since Penny Marshall’s Big.

2023 marks 35 years since Penny Marshall became the first woman director to make over $100 million at the American domestic box office with hit comedy Big, widely recognised as Tom Hanks’ breakthrough movie. Following Big, Marshall had an impressive career as a director-for-hire, directing the Oscar-nominated Awakenings (1990) and the much-loved A League of Their Own (1992), amongst numerous other films. Marshall’s death in 2019 was followed by an outpouring of grief from her contemporaries, evident in social media and obituaries that noted her significance and influence as a trailblazer for women in Hollywood. Despite this, however, there is no academic work focused on Marshall or her films, and she does not appear in histories of Hollywood.

This one-day symposium will address this absence, and explore the ramifications of and reasons for the neglect of Marshall’s work in critical circles, using the anniversary of her most commercially successful film to reflect more broadly on Marshall, her films, her career and her wider influence on the film industry. Further, the event will afford the opportunity to focus not only on Marshall and her oeuvre, but also those women directors who followed in her footsteps to break further boundaries in Hollywood.

Topics for papers may include, but are not limited to:

  • Explorations of Marshall’s films (for example, regarding stars, genre, authorship etc.)
  • Marshall’s career and/or route into the industry
  • Marshall’s early work as an actress
  • Marshall’s influence as a trailblazer
  • Women directors in Hollywood – in the 1980s and beyond
  • Studying directors for hire and their absence in film scholarship
  • Big and its enduring appeal
  • The problematic sexual politics of Big
  • A League of their Own and its feminist potential
  • Hollywood and its canons

Abstracts for 20 minute papers should be approx. 200 words, accompanied by a short bio. Pre-constituted panel submissions of three papers are also welcomed. The symposium will be preceded by a public screening of Big at the Phoenix cinema in Leicester on Thursday 18 May 2023.

Deadline for submissions: Friday 24 February 2023

Please forward submissions and any questions to Dr Claire Jenkins at 

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