The Freak and its Discontents: An Interdisciplinary Conference

deadline for submissions: 
August 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Alex Corey, Jason Marrott & Elisabetta Leopardi / Trinity College Dublin
contact email: 

‘There’s a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma.’ -Diane Arbus


The symbol of ‘the freak’ is a transcultural allegory that exists across boundaries of nation and discipline. Often perceived as a bad omen, it serves to inform both the pejorative representation of the other and our understanding of the mainstream society which deems the ‘freak’ as other. A cross-disciplinary study of what society finds shocking illuminates the cultural norms that the hegemony considers its constituent pieces. A curiosity or willingness to study the heteroglossia outside of this constituency offers a unique opportunity to expose elements of such hegemonic structures that might otherwise be taken for granted and raise a critical awareness of the processes that define ‘normalcy’ and freakishness. An interdisciplinary approach allows us the vantage point of multiple academic perspectives into what exactly it is in various understandings of the freak that frightens society and what pieces of society are incompatible with the freak. What elements of cultural consciousness function to define the other as ‘freakish’? To what extent is ‘the freak’ both exiled from society and an extension of society itself? Which elements of ‘the freak’ are defined by society, and which are self-imposed? Is ‘the freak’ simply a caricatured exaggeration of ‘the other,’ or is it something separate?


This graduate conference will explore the concept of the freak in relation to Literature, Cultural Studies, Film, Philosophy, Literary Theory, History, Anthropology, History of Art, Drama, Theology, and Folklore.

It will take place in the Trinity Long Room Hub (Trinity College Dublin) on 29-30 October 2019.


We welcome papers in relation to:

- Psychology and Sociology

- Gender Studies

- Film Studies

- History and Social Studies

- Architecture (e.g. gargoyles, grotesques, etc.)

- Social, religious, and cultural identity

- Biography and autobiography

- Ethics in Biology, Immunology, and Medicine

- Literary Theory: (e.g. Bakhtin and the carnivalesque, Rabelais and the grotesque, etc.)

- Ostracised and marginalised figures in literature and history

- Language Studies


We request an abstract of 250-300 words along with a short biography sent to Alexandra Corey at, or to Jason Marrott at, or to Elisabetta Leopardi at  

The deadline for submissions: 30 April 2019