BUGS AND BOOKS: DISEASE, INFECTION AND CONTAGION IN CULTURE
Scholars at all stages of their career are invited to take part in a one-day interdisciplinary symposium hosted by the School of English, University Cork, to explore the diverse roles historically played by contagion/outbreak narratives and disease metaphors. We invite 15-minute papers that engage with a variety of cultural forms, such as literature, film, television and photography. Examples of relevant topics include the function served by fear of contagion in the othering process, contemporary vampirism as a metaphor for sexually-transmitted diseases, zombiism as a metaphor for capitalism, and why epidemics and plagues that stay confined to Africa or Asia rarely form the plots of novels or films. We also encourage papers that engage with the relationship between disease and misinformation, the rise of the far right, and the psychological and social implications of quarantine/isolation. Talks are also invited on individual texts, such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron (1353), Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826), Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death” (1842), Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice (1912), Albert Camus’s The Plague (1947), George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), Stephen King’s The Stand (1978), José Saramago’s Blindness (1995), Mary Morrissy’s Mother of Pearl (1995), Eavan Boland’s “Quarantine” (2001), The Walking Dead comic book and television series, and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011). Given the current surge of interest in books like The Plague and films like Contagion, contributors might also like to explore the ways in which we use fictional narratives to process and understand real-life events, including Covid-19 and responses to it.
Possible topics include but are not limited to:
- Disease/infection in literature, film, television and art
- The language of contagion; how are diseases named/discussed?
- Disease and fashion, i.e. TB, the consumptive woman, branded/designer facemasks
- Metaphors for infection, i.e. vampires and zombies
- Historical outbreaks and their literary/artistic representation
- The role of fiction/art in articulating, expressing and processing fears related to disease
- Disease/infection and the body
- Disease/infection and politics
Presentations will be organised into panel sessions. The symposium will end with a roundtable discussion focused on the challenges of teaching and learning in the time of Covid-19.
We encourage participation from scholars in the Sciences as well as those in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Please email a short (300 word) abstract to Miranda Corcoran (email@example.com)