Plague Literature from Classical Antiquity to the Present

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SAMLA 2012

Session 1: Plague Literature from Classical Antiquity to the 1750s
Session 2: Plague Literature from the Long Eighteenth Century to the Present
The plague, as a recurring theme in the literatures of memoir, travel and exile, has both fascinated and terrified authors. Conceptualizations of the plague serve as potent metaphors for describing transnational and border-crossing phenomena, but this metaphorical quality comes from the lived experience described in diverse literatures. Signalling both intimately embodied experience and a widespread, perennial social condition, the plague has provoked a broad array of aesthetic responses and representational strategies. Guiding questions for the panel will include:  What constitutes plague literature? What is the role of aesthetic documents in shaping our cultural understanding of the plague? How does the plague paradoxically generate literature, even as it disrupts social and ethical frameworks? What does plague literature tell us about related fields of research, such as art history, drama, and film?
We invite papers addressing any aspect of the representation of plague in literature, from Homer's Iliad to Hugo's Bug-Jargal to Saramago's Blindness. Areas of study can include, but are not limited to, literature, art history, theater studies, cultural studies, and intellectual history. The panel will be divided into two sessions: from classical antiquity to the 1750s in the first session, and from the long eighteenth century to the present. Accepted submissions will be considered in plans for an edited volume of essays on plague literature. Please submit an abstract of 250-350 words along with a short bio of 100-150 words to Adair Rispoli, UNC Chapel Hill at: by June 1st, 2012.