CFP: "Communicating Illness: Diagnosing Disordered States" - Concordia University, March 19-20, 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Concordia University

Call for Papers:

8th Annual Concordia University Graduate English Colloquium
Communicating Illness: Diagnosing Disordered States

March 19-20th, 2010, Concordia University, Montreal

Abstracts due: January 4, 2010
Submit to:

The 8th Annual Concordia University Graduate English Colloquium, "Communicating Illness: Diagnosing Disordered States," seeks papers exploring ideas of illness, diagnosis, and interpretations of illness in text, language, and culture. Literature's engagement with illness has ranged from Keats' tuberculosis to Poe's "Masque of the Red Death," from Eliot's depiction of feminine hysteria in The Wasteland to Freud's mapping of psychosis as a literature of civilization, from sci-fi representations of apocalyptic, global epidemics to Foucault's diagnosis of 18th century discourses of 'health', and from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy to Sontag's "illness as metaphor." Illness multiplies, intensifies, and generates meaning, inquiring into the narratives that surround ideas of 'the human' and the nature of 'the subject'.

Among the questions illness puts forward for debate are: How does illness produce literature? How has illness generated poetic, prophetic and theological writing? How do we diagnose and create the "healthy body" in academic departments, and interrogate concepts of civilization and progress in nation states and polities? How is illness used as a tool of ideological domination or coercion, and how does it function as a societal hieroglyph of signification? How is illness deployed as a characterization of decadence, degeneration, weakness, and social dissidence? How is illness used to create representations of difference, and what bearing does this have on our interpretative outlook and our own subjectivity?

Concordia University's 8th Annual Graduate English Colloquium seeks proposals that discuss illness as a lens or catalyst for examining literature, history, society, the body, sexuality, the psyche, etc., and as a focal site of research, interpretation, and ideological inquiry. Works engaged in a variety of critical methodologies are welcome, including proposals of an interdisciplinary nature.

The Colloquium's keynote speaker will be Mary Arseneau from the University of Ottawa, whose interdisciplinary work on Victorian women writers investigates literary representations of illness and health, bringing together the fields of literature and medicine.

The deadline for abstracts is January 4th, 2010. Please send abstracts of 300 words or less to, along with a short biographical statement of no more than 50 words. Papers submitted individually, if successful, will be grouped into a panel by the conference organizers. You may also propose a panel topic of your own, provided that three relevant abstracts by different contributors are submitted together.

Possible critical topics or spheres of inquiry include:
- the diagnostic role(s) of literary and social criticism
- medical ethics and politics; medication and treatment (both alternative and medical)
- literary and visual representations of disabilities
- ideologies of contamination and purity, addiction and intervention
- decadence, aging, and degeneration
- trauma, anxiety, neurosis and other psychological disorders
- aestheticization of illness and death; symptoms and other signifiers
- the dying earth, ecocriticism and environmental ills
- disordered affects, passions, emotions
- the politics and poetics of HIV/AIDS
- feminine hysteria and other gendered pathologies
- hygiene and cleanliness; pus/vomit/snot: the abject body
- pathologizations of race, class, gender, and sexuality
- uses and abuses of medical discourse
- hospital culture and popular culture (Grey's Anatomy, ER, etc)