"Horror in Human Form: The Gothic Body in Romantic Literature": NASSR Special Session (July 10-13)

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NASSR 2014: Romantic Organizations
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Deadline: January 17, 2014

"Horror in Human Form: The Gothic Body in Romantic Literature": NASSR Special Session (Laura Kremmel, Lehigh University)

From the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (1764), with its disembodied limbs and bleeding statues, the body has been a topic of uncertainty, disruption, and transgression within Gothic literature. These qualities become magnified during the Gothic popularity of the 1790s. Coleridge, in his review of infamous "Monk" Lewis's work, compares the reading experience to being dragged "by way of sport through a military hospital, or [forced] to sit at the dissecting-table of a natural philosopher." In other words, the Gothic exposes the abject interior of the body—dripping, oozing, palpitating—that, as Kristeva famously says, "we thrust aside in order to live." It is also the literature of the outsider, frequently considered monstrous for physical deformity or deviation. The abject, deformed, or unwell body becomes a text to be read within these literary contexts, creating a subtext of creatures hidden in the shadows of the core narrative. Frankenstein's monster is in good company in the Romantic Gothic.

This panel invites papers that dissect the fascination with configurations of the body in Gothic literature of the Romantic period. Though the contemporary Gothic often receives attention for its body horror, its roots still lie in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—Matthew Lewis, Charles Maturin, Mary Shelley, among many others—in a period during which medical study was busy churning Gothic narratives of its own. In what ways does the Gothic literature of the period reinforce or re-imagine medical thought of the period? How do horror and terror influence or disrupt systems of bodily organization? How does the Romantic-era Gothic configure the grotesque and/or the sublime through the human body? Possible subtopics include disability, illness, medicine, anatomy, dissection, monstrosity, reanimation, old age, pregnancy/childbirth, and bodily remains.

Please send abstracts (350 words), a brief CV, and direct questions to the NASSR 2014 conference organizers, Richard Sha (American University) and Patrick R. O'Malley (Georgetown University) at nassrdc@georgetown.edu by January 17, 2014. All proposals must include your name, academic affiliation (if any), and preferred email address. If you are applying to a special session, you must also include the name of the session either on your proposal itself or in the accompanying email.

Other special sessions found at: https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/nassr2014/cfp/