Pill and Pen. Contraception and Unwanted Pregnancy
in Global Literature and Popular Culture
Fr, March 7 to Sunday, March 9, 2014
Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
University of Iowa, Iowa City
Symposium organizers: Waltraud Maierhofer (German; U Iowa), Walter Gruenzweig (American Studies; TU Dortmund), Elizabeth Heineman (History / Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, U Iowa)
The symposium seeks to explore the discourses of birth control in recent fiction and film as well as in artifacts of popular culture.
Contraception is not a purely personal matter. Authors around the world continue to challenge the dominant cultural discourses in their advocacy of birth control, or in the case of 2012 Nobel Literature Prize Winner, Mo Yan, criticize the strict birth control policies of their country. A British journalist writes a column about his experiences participating in a clinical trial for the male birth control pill. Although the topic seems widely absent in otherwise highly sexually charged American TV shows, the libido-boosting best seller Fifty Shades of Grey explicitly discusses contraception. A Mexican film (The Crime of Padre Amaro/ El Crimen del Padre Amaro, 2002) becomes an international hit – and provokes a “Christian” film with a different stance on abortion (Punto y Aparte/ Critical Point, 2002). Abortion also shows up as motif in crime fiction such as Henning Mankell's Before the Frost. Michael Glawogger’s documentary Whore’s Glory (2011) points out abuses of contraceptive pills and neglect of STD prevention. Popular fiction and film tell the background of the Comstock Law (Sex Wars: A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period by Marge Piercy, 2005) and the Birth Control movement (Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story, TV 1995).
The symposium will explore the way these questions are shaped imaginatively in different genres and attempt to view these discourses as expressions of social and cultural conflicts negotiated around the world. The comparative and international focus will be a key aspect of the conference.
Keynote speaker: Carl Djerassi (born 1923, Vienna), is an Austrian American chemist, novelist, and playwright. As a scientist, he is best known for his contribution to the development of oral contraceptive pills. In the past twenty years, he has produced a large number of novels, plays and also poetry which he subsumes under the genre of “science-in-fiction” and “science-in-literature” and which are translated, published and presented all over the world. An ardent collector of Paul Klee, he is also known as a supporter of the arts, especially through the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in California. Djerassi, professor emeritus at Stanford University, lives in San Francisco, London and Vienna. Three of his total of 30 honorary doctorates were awarded for his achievements in literature and the arts. His reflections on the pill and reproductive technologies are contained in, among others, This Man's Pill: Reflections on the 50th Birthday of the Pill (2004), An Immaculate Misconception: Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction (drama, 2000), The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse (1992), The Politics of Contraception (1981).
Please send title, abstract (up to 300 words), and one-page resume to either Waltraudfirstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct. 1, 2013.
For select sections, complete papers will be expected before the symposium and distributed to participants.
Conversations are afoot to publish select papers as a volume.
University of Iowa
Department of German
111 Phillips Hall
Iowa City IA 52242-1323
319-335-2990 (fax) Email: email@example.com
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