[Msa-discuss] MLA 2020 CFP: More than human? An alternative paradigm

Annaliese Hoehling ahoehling at english.umass.edu
Thu Mar 14 10:23:40 EDT 2019

We're interested in the "baroque" as an alternative paradigm within and
alongside modernity, and thus we'd love to see projects from the 20th
century, especially modernist projects that contest narrative and aesthetic
traditions that assume Cartesian or Enlightenment constructions of
"progress" and, of course, what it means to be "human."

Projects which address embodiment, including affect studies, disability
studies, race, gender, sexuality, and posthuman bodies, are welcome.

Here's more from our developing proposal:

In The Culture of the Body: Genealogies of Modernity (2000), Dalia Judovitz
locates the body--conceptually and materially--as an historically- and
culturally-bound entity that has, nevertheless, been disembodied by
Cartesian modern thinking. Examining texts by early modern thinkers,
however, Judovitz excavates the “baroque body” as an alternative paradigm
for “conceiving and representing the body” as always-becoming, as plural,
and as attached to and constructing the world (12).  The reward of
considering the “baroque body” as an alternative framework for approaching
humanism is to reunite the metaphysical and the physical in an
understanding of modern subjectivity and identity as both contingent and
provisional; to conceive of embodiment as expressive of culture and also as
potentially transformative of social order.

Importantly, baroque bodies respond to the Enlightenment’s “triumph” of the
rational mind over the corruptible body. Baroque bodies are therefore
“minoritarian”: they are excluded from subjecthood and interiority because
they navigate the world via surfaces; they also proliferate surfaces which
interact with, and are vulnerable to, the world that constructs them.
Baroque bodies can therefore be said to exceed the definitions of the ideal
human: they are hybrid bodies, raced bodies, queer bodies, disabled bodies,
trans bodies, child bodies, elderly bodies, and so on.  In this panel’s
concern with the aesthetics of the modern human, baroque bodies are both
invisible and overdetermined, spectacles and inscrutable. Baroque bodies
challenge assumptions of what it is to be “human” and therefore both
deconstruct and expand definitions of the human.

Reconfiguring the Baroque/baroque epistemology as pre-emptive of
posthumanism, we are interested in the baroque as a paradigm of hope. If
the zombie is the Cartesian extreme--the late capitalist body hardwired
against the mind and spirit--it is likewise an anti-baroque apocalyptic
fantasy. Posthumanist studies have promoted the embeddedness/imbrication of
the human within non-human environments and structures--and have therefore
sought to reattach that which the Enlightenment separated and categorized
apart and decenter the human in the process. The baroque has historically
always offered this possibility (the reorganization/the decenteredness,
etc.) and was therefore an important aesthetic tool in postcolonialist
literary imaginaries (the neobaroque). The baroque body is always in
dynamic relation, always in flux and always resisting the “center” or the
“essence” -- it dissipates boundaries not only in terms of race, gender,
sex, but also along the lines of species, life v. object, and human v.

We've put a CFP up on the MLA call for abstracts
<https://mla.confex.com/mla/2020/webprogrampreliminary/Paper8891.html>, and
ask for about 250-300 words by this Friday, March 15 -- but let us know if
you're interested or have questions and would like more time to submit

Annaliese Hoehling, MA, MFA
PhD Candidate (ABD), English Literature, UMass Amherst
Teaching Assistant, English Department, UMass Amherst

Recent Article: "Minoritarian 'Marvelous Real': Enfolding Revolution in
Alejo Carpentier's *The Kingdom of This World*
<http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/8acneCJiPUPNWNdIwUtm/full>." *Journal of
Postcolonial Writing, *54:2, 254-267, DOI: 10.1080/17449855.2017.1403362
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