This seminar will explore how national identities have been forged through the manipulation and deployment of animals and animality. How have animals, and ideas associated with such animals, been used to construct imagined communities? How have these constructions helped to strengthen or weaken national borders? How have assertions of imagined community, as expressed via relations with animals, overlapped with racial/ethnic identities?
Foundational texts, events, and people influence our cultural and national personas. In the United States, for example, people may look to the Constitution and patriotic songs or even the bible as foundational texts--texts that define (and limit?) national identity. We often see events such as the Salem Witch Trials, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement as critical moments of national formation, while people such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. represent quintessential "Americans.". These foundational texts, events, and people work their way into literature and pop culture in myriad ways as authors, writers, poets, filmmakers and playwrights incorporate, reify, or challenge them through their works.
THE "POETESS" IRL: The World, Work, and Performances of Nineteenth-Century Women Poets
What was the nineteenth-century woman poet like in real life? This panel seeks to unsettle current definitions by attending to her performing/reforming body and the work she did in the material world.
From sympathetic contagion to animal magnetism, nervous physiology to cell theory and germ theory, nineteenth-century medical theory and practice imagined human embodiment in open relation to the environmental, economic, religious, and political forces that shape historical experience. Often represented in both cultural and physiological terms, disease functioned as both sign and symptom of the irrevocable togetherness of mind and body, something to be combatted morally and technologically by prudence and enlightened reason.
Since the era of slavery and continuing through the present, Black women have articulated a vision of freedom, equality, anti-racism, and racial uplift, drawing from Scripture to sustain their work of promoting equal rights for African Americans. From the early female abolitionists such as Maria Stewart, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman, to the anti-lynching activists Ida B. Wells and Mary Talbert, to the twentieth-century civil rights activists Ella Josephine Baker and Septima Clark, and countless others, these "churchwomen" actively challenged the status quo that relegated Black women to the least empowered positions in the social order.
This panel investigates the contemporary meaning of gender and class in film and literature in the United States. While authors such as Sheryl Sandberg and Hannah Rosin focus on women in the professional ranks to argue for women's prominence in U.S. culture and stories of professional women dominate the media, few stories of working-class women have emerged to challenge the symbolic dominance of the white male worker and breadwinner. As work, families, and genders have changed, how has this symbolism been reinforced or challenged in literature and film?
The melancholic poet, the neurasthenic female reader, the man of artistic temperament: these heavily typed figures, each coded in the medical and psychological discourse of its own time, together bespeak a longstanding cultural connection between anxiety and literature. Sianne Ngai, in Ugly Feelings, even tentatively identifies anxiety as "the distinctive 'feeling-tone' of intellectual inquiry itself" – a signifying trope of bookish existence. But what might this connection between literature and anxiety mean after the advent of psychopharmacology, of neurodiversity awareness, of classroom trigger warnings?
If one measure of the term catastrophe lies in its power to subvert existing systems, we ask how this concept impacts certain memory-narratives produced by contemporary women writers and artists in the wake of human-made catastrophes in the 20th and 21st centuries.
If literature is, as Pound said, "news that stays news," then perhaps poetry is always a matter of current events, but recently, books like Claudia Rankine's Citizen or Brian Turner's Here, Bullet, to name just two, have taken on contemporary public moments, current events in common parlance, and in the process sparked a different kind of conversation.
CALL FOR PAPERS: UPDATE
Words Unofficial: Gossip, Circulation, Mediation
University of Chicago English Graduate Conference
November 19-20, 2015
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Susan Phillips, Northwestern University
Associate Professor of English and Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professor
-Prof. Natasha Barnes, University of Illinois at Chicago
Associate Professor of African American Studies and English
-Prof. Peter Coviello, University of Illinois at Chicago
Professor of English
-Prof. Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago
Assistant Professor of English
-Prof. Lynn Spigel, Northwestern University
Frances Willard Professor of Screen Cultures