Spectrums of Embodiment in Nineteenth-century Literature and Culture (Panel)
One interpretation of the NeMLA 2024 theme of Surplus centers on embodiment, and the transatlantic long nineteenth century was arguably a key historical moment for envisioning material embodiment in terms of surplus, or lack thereof. Representation of both individual and corporate embodiment often turned to material resources like food to express approval or disapproval for various bodies’ relationships to each other. As David J. Hutson argues, during the nineteenth century “body weight was allowed to hold multiple symbolic positions, with thinness and fatness understood as both positive and negative” (2017). This idea also had broader social repercussions: in depicting food consumption, food access, food limitation, or the ways that over- or undernourished bodies “fit” into the spaces they inhabited, and in expressing concerns about various kinds of overabundance, many nineteenth-century authors and artists spoke to broader cultural concerns about the material resources of the body politic.
This panel seeks to address issues of embodied surplus and deficit during the long nineteenth century. Drawing on a range of embodied figures, from Jack Sprat and his wife to Rosetti’s wasting girl in “Goblin Market” to Jacob Riis’s sensational exposé of the cramped spaces of tenement life where “nobody” was fit to live, we welcome papers that question the social, medical, spiritual, or emotional implications of given levels of surplus in visual and textual representations of the body. What is implied or figured in representations of long nineteenth century consuming or emaciated bodies?
Abstracts are due September 30, 2023, and should be submitted through NeMLA's submission portal (https://cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/20337).
NeMLA 2024 will take place in person in Boston, MA, on March 7-10, 2024. More information about the convention can be found on the NeMLA website (https://www.buffalo.edu/nemla/convention.html).