Creature of the Boundaries: The Grotesque as Creative Intervention in the 21st Century

full name / name of organization: 
Katie Lavers, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, and Dr. Nancy Hightower
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Contemporary art, literature, new media and philosophy all interact with the grotesque in innovative and thought-provoking ways. With origins in the ornamental "grottoes" of the Domus Aurea, Nero's palace, where human forms metamorphosed playfully into the forms of plants and animals, the grotesque has since transformed into a darker vision. Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights and Bruegel's The Triumph of Death challenged and attacked social and moral orthodoxies through the use of the grotesque, as did the carnivalesque work of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel. In the 20th Century, artists such as Otto Dix, George Grosz and Hannah Hoch used the grotesque as creative intervention to provoke and challenge social and cultural norms, as have film directors such as Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch, more recently.

The grotesque is a "boundary creature," as scholar Frances Connelly terms it, and exists only where there are strongly patrolled boundaries to transgress. Often used pejoratively to describe unsightly, unsettling, pornographic, or obscene work, the grotesque is a strange juxtaposition of humor, weird beauty, horror, and sadness. The grotesque challenges accepted norms, often inducing a cultural paradigm shift in viewers/readers, provoking them to redefine their relationship with the "other." Grotesque interventions can address a wide range of social and cultural issues including the body, gender construction and sexuality, capitalism, economic inequalities, power struggles, mental illness in conflict with today's psychological practices, transnationalism and animal studies./

We seek articles that open up the field of discourse surrounding the grotesque as creative intervention in the 21st century. We welcome essays from all fields both from within and from outside the humanities. We also invite interdisciplinary work and will consider original photography, drawings, diagrams and unusual approaches to the structuring of text where this is an integral part of the proposal.

Proposals of 500 words and a short bio should be sent to by February 1, 2014. Full papers (4,000 – 7500 words) will be due by June 1, 2014.

CFP Categories

Visual and Performing Arts
New Media
Digital Art
Literature and the Environment
Animal studies
Intersections of the grotesque and New Weird
Intersections of bizarro and the grotesque