[UPDATE] Thunderbolts, Routers, and Ruffians: Early Modern Bullies, Panel, NeMLA Conference, March 21-24, 2013, Boston, MA

full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
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Thunderbolts, Routers, and Ruffians: Early Modern Bullies and Bullying

In the last ten years bullies have gained serious attention as cyber-bullies have inflicted emotional damage so serious that some victims have resorted to suicide to escape their tormenters. Mid- to late-twentieth-century popular depictions of bullies paint them in a different light, mythologizing these figures as threatening in appearance, but ultimately harmless. These images show bullies' power as rooted in language—their toughness is constructed in tough talk. Confronting bullies is portrayed as a rite-of-passage from childhood to adulthood: once bullies' victims openly expose their tormentors' cowardice, they render them impotent. If we consider a longer history of depicting bullies, it becomes clear that early modern culture mythologizes these figures in different terms. From capricious monarchs to vile usurpers, and all the figures in between, early modern artists take bullies seriously as threats to their societies' foundational institutions and to the larger social order. While the term bully as 'a tyrannical coward, who makes himself a terror to the weak' is relatively new (the first use in this context dates to the late seventeenth century England; see OED), bullies and bullying discourse are woven into the fabric of early modern cultural production. This panel asks us to consider a longer history of imagining the bully to investigate how bullying is depicted, how it is conquered, and the relationships between bullying, discourse, and social power and authority in early modern cultural production, in any national tradition. Paper topics might include analyses of bullying discourse, examinations of depictions of bullies, studies of the ways bullies' threats are contained or conquered in art or literature, or investigations of early modern cultural mythologies of bullies. Papers theorizing the bully are equally welcome. Papers considering national traditions other than English are encouraged, but abstracts should be in English or French. Please submit brief abstracts of 300 words or fewer via email to Elizabeth Ketner at eketn001@gmail.com.

About the Conference:

2013 Northeast Modern Language Association Convention
March 21-March 24, 2012

Location: Hyatt Regency Boston (just off Boston Common)

Host: Tufts University

For its return to Boston, NeMLA is offering over 360 sessions, in all aspects of modern language scholarship and teaching. Complementing the 2013 Keynote speaker are strong selections in Canadian, Caribbean, Postcolonial Anglophone, and Comparative Language Literatures.

The full Call for Papers is now available at http://nemla.org/convention/2013/cfp.html.
Deadline for Abstracts: September 30, 2012.

Keynote Speaker:

The NeMLA Board and Tufts University are pleased to announce that Dionne Brand will be the keynote speaker for the 44th Annual Convention. Born in Trinidad, Dionne Brand is a renowned Canadian poet, novelist, and essayist. Her writing is notable for the beauty of its language, and for its intense engagement with issues of social justice, including particularly issues of gender and race. Her writing has won the Governor General's Award for Poetry, the Trillium Prize for Literature, the Pat Lowther Award for Poetry, the Harbourfront Writers' Prize and the Toronto Book Award. NeMLA is particularly delighted to welcome Dionne Brand as part of our long-standing commitment to Caribbean and Canadian Literatures.


The 2013 NeMLA convention continues the Association's tradition of sharing innovative scholarship in an engaging and generative location. The 44th annual event will be held in historic Boston, Massachusetts, a city known for its complex blend of historic value and contemporary importance. The city's extensive museums and libraries, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of African American History, the French Library and Cultural Center, and the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum form the perfect environment for this rich and diverse convention. With over fifty institutions of higher education, the city is also a hub for research and pedagogy. Known as the Walking City, Boston is very accessible on foot and features extensive public art highlights and historic walking tours. The city is also a major hub for food lovers because of its diverse demographics and innovative restaurateurs, and a hive of performing arts and cultural events including ballet, street performance, and diverse festivals.

NeMLA 2013's location is adjacent to Boston Common and the Theatre District, with easy access to the T. Group activities are being planned.