Call for papers for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
University of Toronto: May 22-25, 2014
Defining the Excessive Body: from the Intemperate to the Transhuman
Chair: Nancy A. Nield PhD, Independent Scholar
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JAN. 10, 2013
Merriam-Webster in part defines the noun “excess” in the following manner: “the state or an instance of surpassing usual, proper, or specified limits” and “undue or immoderate indulgence: intemperance.” Perhaps even more evocative is the list of synonyms which the site provides for “excess”: “bellyful, fat, overabundance, overage, overmuch, overplus, oversupply, plethora, plus, redundancy, superabundance, superfluity, surfeit, surplus, surplusage.” This string of synonyms, itself “overmuch,” confirms the definition’s dialectics of flesh and spirituality, mundane and sacred, emotion and rationality, empirical and transcendental, hyle and morphe, all dualities which map themselves over a more basic, corporeally grounded tension between conceptions of femininity and masculinity.
This panel welcomes papers from any time period, geographical area, and/or academic discipline which investigate the ways in which bodies transgress, surpass, and exceed their “usual, proper, or specified limits” by mobilizing such aspects as gender, sexuality, age, race, ethnicity, weight, disability, etc. This panel calls for submissions from a variety of disciplines and fields, including, but not restricted to art history, disability studies, feminist studies, film studies, history, LGBTQ studies, literature, performance studies, philosophy, politics, rhetoric, and visual culture. Interdisciplinary perspectives are always encouraged.
This panel will especially look forward to papers which interrogate the manner in which bodies represented in art, television, film, and other examples of visual culture emerge as sites and sights of excess. For examples, papers could discuss performance artists such as Orlan and Stelarc, who utilize surgery, computer imaging, and biotechnology to render the human body malleable and exquisitely excessive. Other proposals might consider whether certain types of corporeal states or experiences simply cannot or should not be depicted because their excessive, abject subjects and themes, ranging from the works of Damien Hirst to so-called “horror porn” films like the Saw and Hostel series, exceed certain aesthetic and social limits.
While we call for papers that investigate the deeply rooted western philosophical association between the female body and its burden—or bellyful-- of flesh, variously defined, we also welcome essays that complicate that connection and critically examine the ways in which immoderation, impropriety, excess problematize the ostensibly natural division of the sexes and therefore confound the en-gendering of the body. For example, how does one medically or socially categorize a body born with both female and male genitalia? Or, how do practices of drag subvert easy attempts at interpellating an essential or natural sex and instead introduce the idea of gender as a performance, in Judith Butler’s sense? We further welcome papers that examine whether scholars such as Helene Cixous, Jacques Derrida, Jean Genet, Elizabeth Grosz, and Luce Irigaray, among many others, both ancient and modern, successfully recuperate excess, the body, the double for the empowering of feminist theory. Or does excessive embodiment, the body of excess always lead to the monstrous, the insane, and/or the incoherent? Is the body plagued by ecriture feminine always female? Is the notion of the body in excess a particularly postmodern concept?
Other submissions might defend a state of excessive embodiment as a trans- or posthuman body, by examining, for example, the tenets of the international movement Transhumanism and their celebration of such scientific and medical practices as nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, etc. How is the posthuman body envisioned by such scholars as Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles, Cary Wolf and Anne Weinstone? What is the relationship between posthumanism, transhumanism, and science fiction, especially cyberpunk authors like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling?
Finally, we especially welcome papers that explore the disabled body as a locus of political, cultural, social excess, whether as a stepping stone to posthumanism or a site/sight of absence in popular culture like television and film.
Please email an abstract of between 300-500 words and a cv by January 10, 2013 to Nancy Nield (firstname.lastname@example.org). Although I’m mainly looking for paper proposals, I would also welcome hearing from those who would wish to function as respondents.
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