CFP: "The Body Electric" Graduate conference, University of Maryland, College Park, March 3rd, 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Graduate English Organization; University of Maryland, College Park
contact email: 

The Graduate English Organization of the University of Maryland's Department of English invites graduate students to submit abstracts for our fifth annual interdisciplinary graduate conference. The theme of this year's conference is "The Body Electric."

When Walt Whitman sang about the "body electric" he was thinking about a fantasy of connectivity, a body at once charged and charging. Using the "body electric" as a focal point, this conference hopes to highlight a broad spectrum of work from a variety of fields, literary and otherwise. Abstracts that focus on studies of the body, connectivity, persuasion, electricity, philosophy/philosophy of mind, morality, politics/the body politic, and affect theory are welcome and encouraged. Similarly, "The Body Electric" may tap into discourses of historical and emerging technologies—allowing us to think of writers like Whitman, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf as possessing a clear stake in the popular science of their respective ages. "The Body Electric" creates connectivity and allows for an unbounded self—just as Clarissa Dalloway "felt herself everywhere; not 'here, here, here'…but everywhere."

In considering the way language and literature tenuously work to bridge the gaps they often create, the category of an electric body becomes useful in thinking of affect, rhetoric, social change, mediation, enlightenment, subjectivity, and technology. For instance, thinking of social movements in the journalistic commonplace of "electric" allows us to examine the currents of communication that make them possible. Rhetorically, these currents of communication may consider the bodies of work we create and shape; in doing so, one might explore the discourse of writing as performance that provides a space to help (our students) develop a vital connection to the delivery of texts; the "body electric" becomes a central consideration as we perform written, spoken, and multimodal works. Likewise, thinking about the affective scene as implicitly electric allows us to articulate a genealogy of the emotions.

In its broadest sense, "The Body Electric" lends itself to a number of opportunities for interrogation. How do these connections happen? Does considering the body as electric allow for reformulations of the relationship between the body and the mind? between populace and politician? between society and morality? Do burgeoning social media technologies like Twitter and Facebook extend or inhibit Whitman's dream of expansive connectivity?

The conference committee invites proposals for fifteen-minute papers from a broad range of disciplines and theoretical backgrounds. Presentations of creative work are also welcome. Panel submissions (3-4 participants) are highly encouraged. Please limit individual abstracts to 300 words and panel abstracts to 500 words. Full papers may accompany abstracts. Please include three keywords at the end of the abstract to assist panel formation.

The deadline for submissions is January 30th, 2011. Please send all proposals to