CFP: The Mind, the Medium, the Message: Neuroatypicals in Popular Culture (NeMLA 30 April-3 May 2015)

full name / name of organization: 
Julie M Johannes/Northeast Modern Language Association
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The preconceptions and social constructions that society has about neuroatypicals are brought to light when one considers the recent increase of such portrayals in popular media. Mental illness occupies a curious space in our collective consciousness, one sometimes marked by fear and fascination, by stigma and stereotypes: 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' is a prime example of this. Because popular culture depictions of mental illness frequently misrepresent the challenges facing those with neurobiological differences, honest and psychopathologically-aware portrayals play a crucial role in raising our collective consciousness. A review of recent offerings suggests a welcome change: while media traditionally has reinforced stereotypes, a series of thoughtful depictions ('Homeland' and 'Silver Linings Playbook,' for example) perhaps is indicative of a shift in the industry, reframing preconceptions of both mental wellness and mental illness and destigmatising those who suffer. 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,' 'The Dark Side of Innocence,' 'Prozac Nation,' and 'Born on a Blue Day' are just a few texts amongst a myriad of works, nonfiction and fiction alike, that are making great strides in raising public awareness of what it means to be neuroatypical. Most significantly, this indicates the fledgling beginning of a paradigm shift rivaling that of the changing attitudes regarding heteronormativity, and one can only speculate that this may lead to a similarly nascent acceptance of neuroatypical diversity in contemporary society.

This panel will explore the ways that popular culture depicts those with differently-wired brains. From bipolar disorder in 'Homeland' and 'Silver Linings Playbook' to the rising popularity of spectrum-focused autopathographies, how popular media portrays and marginalises madness and other neuroatypical manifestations can tell us a lot about the relationship that society has with illness and, ultimately, what we value in ourselves and in one another.

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Abstract deadline is 30 September 2014.

The Northeast Modern Language Association will meet in Toronto, Ontario, for its 46th annual convention. Toronto is Canada's hub of international arts and culture, known for its diverse culinary scene and multicultural urban vitality. NeMLA convention delegates can explore galleries and museums, shop at historic markets, and discover vibrant international villages—all within a short commute of the convention hotel, the famous Fairmont Royal York, in the heart of downtown Toronto.