Reconsidering Sodomy

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Northeast Modern Language Association
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Following Foucault's description of sodomy as "that utterly confused category," literary scholars like Jonathan Goldberg and Alan Bray, among others, have continued to theorize the ways in which sodomy denotes no fixed set of bodily acts, but rather persists as a mobilizable category with social, political, and juridical valences. Sodomy necessarily persists, that is, in excess of the material bodily configurations it purports to police. Even so, much prevailing scholarship nonetheless returns to anal penetration as a presumptive and primary figuration in the discourse of sodomitical, disorderly, and/or illicit sexual acts. This panel pursues the question of sodomy and sexual practice in a diversity of cultural, geographical, and chronological locations in order to reconsider the theoretical stakes of sodomy's resilient association with the anus. How are penetrative figures of sexual contact mobilized in discourses of (dis)order, transgression, ingress, and bodily coherence? How does the boundary between licit and illicit sexual acts materialize on and as the surfaces and orifices of the body? If we consider figurations of sexual contact beyond the limiting paradigm of penetration, what bodily configurations or practices emerge as potential sites of resistance to the norms of proper sexual contact? How, indeed, might retheorizing anti-normative sexual practice produce new images of the body itself?

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to: sodomy and the law in colonial and post-colonial contexts; the figural associations of sodomy with backwardness, behindness, and waste; the materiality of the orifice; the figural and/or literal disciplining of illicit or sodomitical sex; reconfigurations of bodily boundaries.

Please submit 300-word abstracts by September 30, 2015 through the NeMLA website at