Undead Voices and Post-perspectives

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
North East Modern Language Association
contact email: 

Death is a pervasive and philosophical theme across time and genre. Undead voices have been used for centuries as fictional devices with authority to establish connections between two separate worlds. These voices can have multiple shapes and exist in different society constructs, and can be described as posthuman. On this subject, Rosi Braidotti’s The Posthuman (2013) examines how modern societies have blurred the traditional distinction between the human and its others, exposing the non-naturalistic structure of the human, even in what constitutes death. The undead voices we propose to discuss can be bodiless or have a buried or unburied corpse/body associated with them. Katherine Verdery’s The Political Lives of Dead Bodies (1999) investigates why certain corpses have taken on a political life in turbulent historical moments, and what roles they play in revising the past and reorienting the present. More recently, James Martel’s Unburied Bodies: Subversive Corpses and the Authority of the Dead (2018) surveys the power of the body left unburied to motivate resistance, to bring forth a radically new form of agency, and to undercut the authority claims made by state power. This unburied body is the locus of abjection, according to Julia Kristeva (Powers of Horror, 1980); it causes reactions of horror and threatens a breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object, or between the self and the other—and thus must be removed from sight.

This roundtable aims at exploring the literary device of the “undead voice” as a mode of agency, critique, and storytelling from the margins. Roundtable participants are encouraged to submit abstracts that engage with the following questions: How do undead voices demonstrate ethical, spatial, emotional, and embodied perspectives on life or death? How does literature address or use the undead voices of marginal figures, such as women, people of color, LGBTQ community, immigrants? What sort of space is given to dead/undead figures (physical, social, spiritual)? How do these spaces matter in globalized contexts?

Areas and themes to be addressed could include, but are not limited to, the following: Postcolonial Theory; Posthumanism and Transhumanism; Posthumous Narration; Medical humanities—medicine/literature, body as diagnosis; Body Theory; Gender Studies; Race and Racism; Minority Studies; Marginalized Literatures; Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

 Please submit abstracts of 300 words to the NeMLA website: here. 

The convention will be held March 11-14 2021 in Philadelphia and welcomes virtual presentations for those who are unable to attend in-person.