CFP: [Romantic] Sexing the Book (McGill Graduate Conference on Language and Literature 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Emily Essert

The English Graduate Students Association of McGill University is pleased to announce its 15th
annual Graduate Conference on Language and Literature. This year’s conference is entitled
“Sexing the Book: Bodies, Texts, Practices.” The conference will be held in Montreal, Canada on
March 27-29th, 2009.

>From Chaucer to Butler and beyond, writers, critics, and theorists have been writing about sex in
conventional as well as controversial ways. Within literary studies, a recent focus on sexual
practices and sex work has reemphasized the material nature of sexual acts, providing detailed
and fascinating examinations of sexuality’s particular socio-historical forms. In literary and
extra-literary contexts alike, scholarship on sexuality continues to provide a forum for
questioning broader cultural practices, the nature of human inwardness, and various kinds of
social relationships.

At this year’s conference, we hope to bring together a variety of perspectives on human
sexuality, including literary, sociological, anthropological, and historical views of sex. We warmly
invite both literary and non-literary papers that address aspects of human sexuality from a
range of disciplines, critical perspectives, periods, and genres. Possible topics might include:

Literary representations of sex work
Textual representations of sexual practices
Pornography as/and/vs. literature
Sex and technology
Sex and the spirit: sex and sin, religious ecstasy, libido
Sex and gender
Sexual spaces: brothels and bawdy houses, sex and/in the home, sex clubs
Sociology of sex: infidelity, monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, incest and other taboos
Censorship and criminalization
Sex and health/disease
Critical theory on sex: feminist criticism, queer and gender studies, power and discourse
Sexual metaphors of literary creativity

Our keynote speaker for the conference will be Professor William Fisher of Lehman College,
CUNY. His award-winning book is entitled Materializing Gender in Early Modern English
Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP, 2006), and he is presently working on a new book on
sexual practices in the Renaissance.

Please send paper proposals (300 words) to Emily at or to Sara at by Friday, January 16th, 2009. If you are interested in applying to one
of the specific panels listed below, please contact the panel coordinators directly at the address
provided. Applicants with successful proposals will be notified by email in Early February.
---Carn(iv)alized TextualitiesBakhtin turned to folk culture in formulating his ideas, with carnival as its indispensablecomponent. By intervening in official (high) culture, which typically dismisses other culturalstrata (i.e., the ‘low’) as invalid and as outside, carnival and carnivalized discourses and textsproved to be subversive. In his reading of Rabelais and His World, Bakhtin applauds FrenchRenaissance writer François Rabelais as the most democratic writer of his time, specificallybecause his carnivalesque writing was closely linked to popular sources and, more importantly,to the local and the particular.The two key elements of the carnivalesque Bakhtin highlights are verbal comic compositions(such as parodies and riddles) and various genres he calls billingsgate, which specifically enactthe language and gestures (body language) of carnival time, enabling nonofficial and extra-ecclesiastical language, activities and relations. For instance, familiar contact and intercourseamong people became possible in marketplace speech and gesture, which was “frank and free,permitting no distance between those who came into contact with each other” (RW 10,118).Otherwise impermissible kinds of communication proliferated during this period of fraternizationwhen “verbal etiquette and discipline are relaxed,” admitting “various speech patterns excludedfrom official intercourse” (RW 102). This familiar speech allowed people to engage in a specialform of popular dialogue , addressing each other informally, using abusive words affectionately,indulging in mutual mockery and, at the root of all such gestures and speech patterns, bringingthe bod(il)y/bawdy back into play. Effectively, “the exalted and the lowly, the sacred and theprofane are all levelled” (RW 160).In considering Bakhtin’s primary texts it becomes apparent that the subversiveness of carnival isrooted in the body/bawdy, and by extension, in occasions of carnivalized (and thus carnalized)discourse and writing. To what extent can we see this notion at work in other texts? Who elsehas provided us with Rabelaisian works that bring the carn(iv)alized body back into the text?Please send proposals to Sheila Simonson at‘The F Word’: The Illicit Pleasures of Food and Sex in LiteratureIf ‘the study of sex in literature contributes towards our understanding of the cultures in whichthe texts we study are produced and consumed’, then examinations of the workings of food andsex in literature are perhaps doubly revealing. Darra Goldstein, editor of scholarly journalGastronomica, asserts that “Food is one of the best ways to understand a culture and the ritualsaround it”, while Robert Palter draws attention to “that master-trope in our literary traditionwhich has food embodying or standing in for some aspect of sex or love”. At least sinceChaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the inherently metonymic tropes of food and eating have beenemployed, in infinitely creative and culturally indicative ways, as signifiers of sexual meaning;while in the twenty-first century Western world, feasting, fasting, and their associated myriad ofmeanings compete with sex for cultural primacy. The gratification and denial of our appetitesobsesses us, and astoundingly lucrative industries have emerged to assist with the managementof our desires. Within academia, the recent rise of ‘food studies’ points to contiguities with theincreasing scholarly interest in sexual practices, and questions of eating are tied intimately tomany established areas of enquiry, such as gender studies (novels such as Margaret Atwood’sThe Edible Woman, for example, are explicit in their need to address the ways in which theobsession with food inflects contemporary sexual relations). An interrogation of the intersectionsbetween food and sex in literature promises to yield a rich field of interdisciplinary andintergeneric thought. Papers for the proposed panel may address, for example, the followingtopics (although, by its nature, the field is highly inclusive):‘Forbidden fruit’, and other literary uses of food and/as sex‘Gastroporn’ (food as pornography) and the sexualization of cooking literatureHistory of food and sex in literaturePsychological and other links between sex and eating disordersCultural taboos around food and sex in literatureCooking and feeding as sexed work; conceptual links between woman as nurturer and/or objectof sexual attentionDeviancy in food and sexFood, sex and advertisingThe pleasure inherent in the consumption of the textFood and eating in erotic fictionPlease send proposals to and Gender in Irish TextsThis panel will consider the changing representation and perception of sex and gender fromearly medieval Irish sagas to contemporary Irish writings. Early Irish literature provides forinteresting study, since the relatively early arrival of Christianity heavily influenced the recordingof pre-Christian Irish texts. Thus, we encounter a collision of attitudes towards sexuality, whichreveal themselves in textual fissures, as well as in transparent misogyny. Modern literature notonly faces the consequences of these conflicts, but also has to deal with the idealized image ofwomen and familial life reinforced by Irish nationalist movement, which is especially visible intexts written by women. Examination of sexualized descriptions and the portrayal of the sexualact itself serve as an interesting avenue to understanding these problems.Please send proposals to Edyta Lehmann at King’s (and Queen’s) Two Bodies: Depictions of the Monarch’s Body in Medieval LiteratureRecent years have seen increased academic interest in the literary depiction of medieval kingshipand queenship, from Judith Ferster’s work on the “politics of counsel” in advice-to-princesliterature to Joanna Martin’s recent study on Scottish poetry’s use of courtly love conventions tocomment on kingly governance. This panel seeks to explore medieval literature’s treatment ofthe king’s/queen’s physical body and its relation to the monarch’s role as governor of the bodypolitic. How does medieval literature use the (literal or metaphorical) image of the ruler’s bodyto articulate how a king or queen should rule? To what extent does medieval literature use aruler’s sexual behaviour (or lack thereof) as an indicator of his/her more general ability to rule?Is there a difference in how medieval literature depicts and interprets the sexual comportment ofkings and queens? Explorations of these and any related questions or issues are welcomed.Possible areas of examination include but are not limited to:• Advice-to-princes literature (mirrors for princes, conduct manuals, the “fall-of-princes”genre)• Literature composed by monarchs (poetry, treatises, etc.)• Depictions of kings and queens in historical chronicles• Literary traditions of kingship/queenship (such as in Arthurian literature)Abstracts of no more than 300 words may be sent to Chelsea Honeyman( no later than 15 January 2008.=================================== From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List more information at on Thu Dec 04 2008 - 23:03:27 EST