The City in Quarantine--abstract due 9/30/15, conference 3/17-20, 2016

full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

In William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton's problematic play Timon of Athens, the fate of Athens hangs in the balance as the eponymous character threatens the city with literal and figurative diseases from outside its walls. Timon thus embodies a nightmarishly pathogenic force, sending forth plagues and venereal diseases to "thatch your poor thin roofs/With burthens of the dead" (V.iii.143-145), even as the city's gates bar his physical entrance. Although Timon of Athens has traditionally been regarded as an anti-corruption allegory, the play thus presents fruitful opportunities for examination through the lens of quarantine and urban containment. Contrary to a validation of the self-contained fortress, Timon of Athens highlights the dangerous hubris of equating walls with imperviousness, even immunity. Similar associations between sealed borders and civic, or even national, pathogenic containment can be seen in the popular media even today, from debates about Ebola crisis management to radioactive site lockdowns. Similarly, both the novel and the film World War Z bring such questions into an ultra-contemporary light by imagining a fortified Israel besieged by infectious zombies. For this reason, anxieties about the necessity, or even efficacy, of the civic fortress remain incredibly salient within disease and epidemiologically-related discourse.

We currently welcome abstracts that problematize the concept of civic quarantine across the disciplines through a critical lens. Ultimately, this panel seeks to bridge conversations between time periods and
genres, so we will be selecting on the basis of variety in addition to merit and originality. Additional texts worth considering might include video games or disaster simulations, but as the chairs wish to ground the panel's discussion within a historical context, we also encourage submissions that engage with medieval/early modern texts.

Recommended topics for engagement include disease studies and epidemiological studies, and/or discourse aimed at urban studies, architecture, outbreak narratives, and dramatizations of pathological crises.

How to submit:
Prospective panelists can submit their applications at the following link.