The Poetics of Pain: Aesthetics, Ideology and Representation

full name / name of organization: 
Dept of Comparative Literature - CUNY Graduate Center
contact email: 

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

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  Proposals should include the title
of the paper, presenter's name, institutional and departmental affiliation. 
We also welcome panel proposals (3-4 papers).