The Monster Inside Us, The Monsters Around Us: Monstrosity and Humanity
A three-day conference, 18, 19, 20 November 2011
De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
- David Punter, University of Bristol
- Andy Mousley, De Montfort University, Leicester
The Oxford English Dictionary locates the origin of the word "monster" in the 12th-century Old French word mostre, meaning a prodigy or marvel, originally used to denote a mythical being, half-human, half-animal. From the 13th century the term was used derogatorily to indicate something other than "normality": something large, gross, malformed or abnormal. The monstrous now created fear and loathing rather than awe, and was not limited to physicality, but included difference through race, culture, society, ideology, psychology, and many other Others.
The fear raised by Otherness is not produced through the presentation of something entirely alien, but by the recognition of ourselves within the Other. In his Introduction to Cogito and the Unconscious Slavoj Žižek argues that the Cartesian Subject has at its heart the monster which emerges when deprived of the "wealth of self-experience." At the heart of the human is the monster; at the heart of the monster is the human. The instability of the individual subject and the ease by which the ever-changing border between "human" and "monster" is transgressed has long been debated in literature; Frankenstein makes a monster by trying to perfect the human, while both nineteenth-century Flora Bannerman, in Varney the Vampire, and twenty-first-century Sookie Stackhouse recognise the human origins of the vampire.
This conference seeks to understand the relationship between the human and the monstrous across the centuries and across disciplines. In what ways and to what ends have the human and the monster been defined and polarized? How has the monster been subdued, and with what success? How do definitions and separations of the human and the monstrous change and through what pressures and motivations? How does the emerging field of posthumanism enable us to conceptualize the monstrous in relation to the human and humanism?
Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers which may address, but are not limited to:
- Monstrosity in the humanities
- The monster and criminality
- Psychology and the monster
- Monstrosity and the internet
- The human and the monster in the post-national world
- Monstrosity and miscegenation
- Liminality and transgression
- Theories of monstrosity and/or the human
- Historical monsters
- Humanism, the post-human, and monstrosity
Please send abstracts of 300 words to Dr Deborah Mutch, Department of English, Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH, email: email@example.com
Conference Fee: £30 / £15 post-graduate/unwaged including lunch and refreshments
Deadline for abstracts: 1 June 2011
Click here for the conference website.