Poetics of Pain: Aesthetics, Ideology and Representation (2/25-26/2010)

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Department of Comparative Literature - City University of New York
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Department of Comparative Literature
The Graduate Center - City University of New York

Call for Papers

Annual Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference:
The Poetics of Pain: Aesthetics, Ideology, and Representation
February 25th-26th, 2010

Pain has always occupied a problematic space in any discipline investigating the human condition. The question of how to manage the unmediated experience of pain in the face of the social and ethical imperative to communicate it has spawned countless theories of and approaches to pain itself and its representation. This conference seeks to foster dialogue between a broad range of approaches to pain and suffering, including medical-scientific investigations of the neurological processes involved in the experience of pain, socio-historical analyses of the connection between individual pain and collective trauma and literary/linguistic inquiries into the possibilities and limitations of a poetics of pain. Theorists and thinkers will include, among others, Jean Amery, Elaine Scarry, Sade, Sacher-Masoch, Deleuze, Wittgenstein, Foucault, Ballard, Mirbeau and Kafka.

How can the ineffable sensation of physical torment be conveyed by its sufferer, or acknowledged by the other? How is individual suffering converted into collective experience? How, in turn, is an individual's experience of pain socially determined? How do the varying discourses of pain bring the sufferer into contact with the world and break down the barriers between self and other? What are the conceptual mechanisms that guide our understanding of this physiological experience?

We invite papers from all disciplines approaching the subject from a variety of critical perspectives that explore the ways in which pain is articulated, narrativized, framed, interpreted, subjectivized, and imbued with meaning.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

• Torture, War
• Illness Narratives
• Medical and Diagnostic Language of Pain
• Sadomasochism - from Rousseau and de Sade to LGBT "Leather Scenes"
• Biopolitics
• Animality and Humanism
• Martyrdom and Religious Representations of Suffering
• Theaters of Cruelty
• Politicization of Pain and Collective Accounts of Past Suffering
• Violence and Politics
• Survivor Memoirs
• Victims of Crime and Assault
• Trauma and Testimony
• Physical Suffering in Light of the Cartesian Mind/Body Problem
• Religious and Secular Theodicies
• Victimhood, Voice and Agency
• Desire, pain and subjectivity.
• Technologies of Punishment
• Bioethics

Please submit a 300 word abstract for a 15-20 minute paper by November 10th to painconference@gmail.com. Proposals should include the title of the paper, presenter's name, institutional and departmental affiliation. We also welcome panel proposals (3-4 papers).