Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reminder: Interiority in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain: Beyond Subjectivity (12/15/2012; 4/12/2013)

Interiority in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain: 
Beyond Subjectivity

Rutgers University, April 12, 2013

The potential for discovery of what is or was “interior” fires the curiosity of scholars of British history and culture, whether the subject of investigation is the parlor of a middle-class Victorian family or the emotional life of an eighteenth-century Methodist.  The Rutgers British Studies Center will hold a one-day interdisciplinary conference on April 12, 2013 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey on interiority in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.  Broadly understood, "interiority" might include any topic that concerns mental or material phenomena that are conceived to be interior, internal, inner, or inward, often but by no means always in explicit distinction from what is exterior, external, outer, or outward.   Listed below are a number of such topics; the aim of this list is to be suggestive, not exhaustive. We encourage topics that in some fashion reflect on historical changes in interiority.

A great deal of excellent work has been done in these period fields on the idea of interiority as psychological subjectivity. We value this work. At the same time—and with no intention of proscribing papers  that thoughtfully extend it —we especially encourage papers that go beyond this concentration and that allow relations and correlations to be drawn between different senses of interiority. In this spirit we also aim to bring together a range of interdisciplinary scholarship. We invite those interested to submit proposals of about 250 words by December 15, 2012 to Kathryn Yeniyurt at

  • Feeling/s and sentiment:  social, familial, intimate relationships; isolation and loneliness; pity and pathos; sensibility, sentimentalism, sensationalism, subjectivity, solipsism
  • Aesthetic appreciation/response:  the imagination; physical or emotional responses to artwork /literature/nature
  • Emotional experience/response: happiness, sadness, depression, alienation, etc.
  • Thought/cognition: philosophical and scientific debates over impressions, perceptions, ideas; human and animal instinct, habit, perception;  minds vs. behavior; intuition and analysis, detection and crime-solving
  • Sense disability : blindness/deafness; braille/sign language
  • Religious/supernatural experience: conscience; conversion experience; mysticism; revelation; mesmerism; the occult
  • Mental illness:  humane treatment/advocacy of the mentally ill; categorizing mental illness; gendered mental illnesses, e.g., “hysteria,” post-partum depression, neurasthenia, melancholy, hypochondria

Persons and the Interpersonal
  • Sympathy/empathy
  • Humanitarian: charity, benevolence; advocacy and activism (the poor, criminal, insane, disabled, non-human)
  • Categorizing “Person”: characters, persons, actors, agents, souls, selves, individuals; infant, child, adult, wild children, animals
  • Language, lack of language: representation of interior experience, mind; personality and character assessment; reputation and credit; “literary” representation;  non-linguistic representation; “the unspeakable” (trauma, pain, “the sublime”)
  • Legal definitions of “person”; legal testimony and evidence of the intrapersonal (motive, intention); lawyer-client, doctor-patient privilege

  • Pain/suffering: expression and representation of interior bodily experiences
  • Accessing bodily interiors: medical technology and instruments; biological functions
  • Biotechnology: alteration of physical forms; bioethics
  • Anatomy, dissection, vivisection:  ovariotomy; controversies over dissection/vivisection of humans or animals and representation of their experience
  • Sickness and death:  representation of symptoms,  practice of diagnosis; “invalidism”; defining death
  • Sex and reproduction: conception, pregnancy, birth; gender difference; penetration; masturbation
  • Transfusion, bodily exchanges, contagion:  transfer of blood, organs, tissue, etc. from one organism to another; wet-nursing; germ theory; endemic, epidemic disease; quarantine
  • Clothing:  undergarments, nightclothes, mourning garments, uniforms, etc.

Architectural Spaces
  • Design and perspective:  scale and detail; form and function; beauty and utility; ornamentation
  • Interior spaces:  private spaces in home (bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, studies), workplaces (adjoined to living spaces,  inner offices), public institutions  (museums, hospitals, municipal buildings, urban gardens; domestic servants and access to family
  • secrets, “dirty laundry”
  • Restricted and protected spaces:  bank vaults; hospitals; prisons; laboratories; archives; repositories
  • Spaces for sickness, death, and grief:  the asylum; the sickroom; the death-bed; the cemetery; public vs. private mourning; mourning garments; funerals and processions; eulogies
  • Sanitation:  waste disposal; cleansing of bodies, homes, hospitals, etc.; housing standards, esp. in impoverished areas; overcrowding; diseased or quarantined districts

Geographical Spaces
  • Domestic and Foreign, Metropolitan and Periphery:  exoticism; missionary activities
  • Classification:  mapping; collection of specimens of animals, minerals, or vegetation for study; classifying people and cultures :  the primitive; the noble savage; stadial theory (savage, barbarian, civilized); wild and tame(d); ethnography, anthropology; cross-culturalism (“going native,” Europeanization, native informants)
  •  Geo-politics; intranational internalizations (south and north, west and east, regionalism, city and country, city and suburb, intra-urban divisions)
  • Penetrating “the Interior”:  the hunt; the safari; interaction in “the contact zone”; exploration and “discovery”; disclosing nature; the psychological interior
  • Travel and cultural exchange: Britons abroad; expatriates; travelers and immigrants in Britain; imports and exports, balance of trade