C-19 - Unsettled Bodies, Fraught Environments: Sensation and Science in 19th-Century Texts (3/17-3/20)

full name / name of organization: 
C19 Proposed Panel

Unsettled Bodies, Fraught Environments – Sensation and Science in Nineteenth Century Texts

Historian Charles E. Rosenberg writes that for much of the nineteenth century western medicine and science viewed the body "as a system of dynamic interactions with its environment" which was "always in a state of becoming—and thus always in jeopardy." This purportedly symbiotic relationship between an inner self and outer environment meant many nineteenth-century Americans viewed the domestic surroundings, social company, and environmental landscapes they inhabited as not only comprising their lived experiences, but constituting their inner selves. Consequently, diseased and oppressed individuals' limited ability to freely navigate or interact with their physical surroundings came to represent not only a physical condition of disenfranchisement or disability, but also a systematic constraint on their internal subjectivity. To combat this characterization, marginalized individuals frequently embraced alternative models of subjectivity that negated empiricism's claims to scientific and objective authority.

Recognizing the symbolic possibilities behind this "system" of sensory and environmental exchange, critics such as Justine Murison, Priscilla Wald, and Cynthia Davis have traced connections between biologically based theories of health/selfhood and larger discussions of public socio-political concern permeating the era/area. We seek projects that build upon such discourse. Topics of particular interest include but are not limited to:

- Early cognitive psychology
- 19th-century views on environmental determinism
- The role(s) of the senses and perception in identity formation
- Pseudo-sciences in the 19th century (spiritualism, homeopathy,
phrenology, etc.)
- Cross-disciplinary and rhetorical approaches to literature and the
sciences
- Print media's influence on popular conceptions of healthy
people/places
- Scientific/geographic frontiers and their relation(s) to the public
psyche

Please send an abstract of 250 words or less and a brief personal bio to heather.chacon@greensboro.edu and rablumen@iuk.edu by August 23rd for consideration. Thank you!