The Stories Bodies Tell
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference
Saturday 24th July 2021 – Sunday 25th July 2021
Online: ShockLogic Platform
‘He had turned into a picture’ Neo-Victorian Reinterpretations of Victorian Corporeal Aesthetics of Aging in Susan Hill’s The Man in the Picture
Aging, Carnivalesque, Decadence, Intertextuality, Mythology, Mirrors, Neo-Victorianism, Poetics, Portraits, Simulacrum
In Victorian times, there was a revival of Hellenic art which went hand in hand with philosophies of decadence that sanctioned the cult of aestheticism. Pre-Raphaelites privileged form over content and praised the ethos of art for art’s sake. Disturbing Victorian pictures of the recently departed turned into instances of memento mori, as well as into frantic attempts to hold on to immortality through the prevalence of the pictured body. These aesthetic philosophies in art found their counterpart in Gothic narratives which explored the decadent aesthetics of the fin de siècle through archetypal transitional bodies in textualities with pervasive artistic references. In resemblance to Ovid’s myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, in which the statue of Galatea is endowed with life, in Poe’s “The Oval Portrait” (1845), an artist transfers the life of a woman into a painting, whereas the real model ages and dies. Influenced by Poe’s tale and by the classical myth of Narcissus, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) discloses how a canvas portrait can become more real than a mirror image, as it is the picture enclosing Dorian’s soul which ages and portrays his moral debacle, and when Dorian stabs the picture to try to dispose of his artistic double, he ends up slaying himself, whereas the picture outlives him and metamorphoses back into his younger self.
In narratives with Neo-Victorian undertones, English writer Susan Hill approaches the Victorian past through a contemporary perspective. In Hill’s novel The Man in the Picture (2007), Clarissa Vigo’s mysterious Venetian painting possesses the lives of individuals who —once captured in the canvas— cease to exist in real life, as they indulge in a sort of literal artistic immortality that renders their aging virtually invisible and makes their death conceptually impossible. The Man in the Picture revisits Victorian aesthetic conceptualisations presented in Poe’s tale and Wilde’s novel, but also displays the influence of postmodern concepts of hyper-reality, such as Jean Baudrillad’s notion of simulacrum. Copies of real bodies reveal no original, since, in virtual reality, avatars become actual identities and artistic entities substitute mortal bodies, thus privileging the artistic unreal to the detriment of real life. This paper aims to analyse Susan Hill’s ghost novel The Man in the Picture as a reinterpretation of Victorian philosophies of corporeal aesthetics of aging through a Neo-Victorian approach.
Disembodied Teaching and Learning: Analyses of a Year of Teaching Remotely
Michael A Lange
Teaching and Learning, SoTL, Embodiment, Remote Learning, Interdisciplinarity, Epistemology, Culture
More than one year into the ongoing global pandemic, teaching and learning in higher education have had to reshape and re-understand themselves, just as many other aspects of day-to-day life have had to do. For many educators and students, these adjustments meant a shift to primarily or exclusively online education. Classrooms became chat rooms, papers became discussion posts, and conversations became voices and images transmitted through speakers and screens. The stories co-created in the classroom changed.
For my colleagues at Champlain College, a small school in Vermont, US, these adjustments hit particularly hard and close to home. Champlain prides itself on “the human touch”, which for many faculty members means a strong personal connection with their students. Those same faculty unreflectively consider the face-to-face, in-classroom experience as fundamental (and perhaps even necessary) to creating and maintaining that human touch. The personal relationship becomes embodied, and embodiment becomes the foundation stone for the personal relationship. Creating shared stories in the classroom becomes inextricably woven into their understanding of the teaching and learning experience.
So what happens when the embodied experience of the classroom is removed? For many, the teaching and learning environment is irreparably harmed, even destroyed. In my presentation, I will dig into some of the assumptions educators make about their classes and students, about the embodied experience and what that really means. In doing so, I will contrast different approaches to traditional classrooms, and how those different approaches translate better and worse into online, disembodied teaching situations. How one theorizes their classroom teaching vis a vis their relationship with students will inevitably shape how they teach without the physical bodies in the room. Moreover, without a reflective, theorized approach to teaching, translating one’s teaching into any other situation is bound to be more difficult and suffer in the translation.
Magical Bodies? Indian Magician’s Body and the West, c.1813-1935
Orientalism, Indian Magic, Subversion, Superhuman, Medical Science, Laws of Physics, Entertainment, Magical Bodies
This paper studies how the body of the Indian magician was Orientalized and exoticised by the West during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and its consequences. From the early nineteenth century, Europeans followed by Americans appropriated magic of Asian and African countries for their incipient entertainment industry. The magic of India, appropriated first by the British who colonized the country, proved especially attractive for audiences in the West because of the inexplicable physical abilities of the Indian magician. Mired in poverty, clad in rags and unable to communicate except through their performance, the typical Indian magician seemed to possess bodily powers which magicians of no other countries could ever display, which made him appear superhuman in the eyes of Western audiences. He had control over his body which acrobats envied and had dexterity which the best sleight-of–hand magicians of the West could not match, he effortlessly performed acts which would have either killed or maimed the Western magician and thus proved to be a perpetual unsolved mystery for modern medical science, and finally he alone could play tricks in which his body seemed to defy the laws of physics. Being invested with such powers by Westerners, the body of the Indian magician was Orientalized which in turn appeared to subvert the superiority and control exercised by modern Western science.
This paper charts the trajectory of such Orientalization, which originated with the arrival of Ramo Samee, who belonged to the first troupe of Indian magicians to perform in the West, on the London stage in 1813, and continued up to do so until the mid 1930s when an Indian magician called Khuda Bux stunned the world with his fire-walking and reading while being blindfolded. It also explores the bitter and unresolved contest which arose as a consequence in the West over whether the body of the magician could actually triumph over science.
The Neo-Edwardian Body: Style Production and Act of Becoming
Neo-Edwardian, Sartorial Style, Bodily Practices, Identity, Historically-Inspired Fashion
Drawing on my master’s thesis in Fashion Studies, I use this presentation to demonstrate how people transform and embody their identities through garments by living images and motifs of ‘past’ to negotiate the meanings of their clothing, appearances, and personalities in the present. The focus of the study is given to the contemporary phenomenon of adapting the motifs of the bygone fashion style – Edwardian fashion (1901-1910) – to daily or a near-daily sartorial practice, defined by the author as neo-Edwardian style. The study focuses on the results of ethnographic fieldwork I carried out as part of the thesis project, and which was interlaced with a theoretical discussion on the production of alternative fashion styles and what it takes to be viewed as a representative of such a non-mainstream style. The theoretical basis of the research draws on a number of concepts, namely: Judith Butler’s concept of performativity, Merleu-Ponty notion of embodiment, and Gilles Deleuze’s act of becoming. Combining these theoretical stands, I argue that the state of being a neo-Edwardian is a state of perpetual becoming as the practitioners of the neo-Edwardian style are not ‘Edwardians’ per se, but rather become associated with that historical era through clothing associations with the particular aesthetic. The findings show that when individuals adorn themselves in period attire on a daily or nearly daily basis, these garments are no longer costumes but rather clothing, which implies the development of a certain intimate relationship between garments and the body within the social realm context.
Super People, Super Bodies: Body Representations in Marvel Comics
Eser Yeşim Çakır
Comic Books, Body Representation, Marvel Comics
Over the years, superheroes have been defined as beings superior to humans, both physically and in terms of personality traits. As a matter of fact, in the series that are accepted as the beginning of the comic book genre, such as Hogan’s Alley and Buster Brown, the main characters were presented as children and all other characters were presented as ordinary human bodies. The importance of superheroes in the world of comics is based on the CCA censorship process and the Silver Age period. Superhero-oriented comics, which emerged as a result of the Silver Age and the censorship sanctions on comics, have the purpose of instilling a sense of security through their superiority and instilling respect for the authority they represent with their superior bodies/beings. However, the “superhuman” representations remained shallow and superficial in the beginning due to the ideology behind their popularization and became stereotyped with the political perspective of the period. As a matter of fact, Timely Comics (today’s Marvel Comics), changed its profile like many comic book companies after the CCA laws, and under the leadership of Stan Lee, three-dimensional superheroes with weaknesses, fears and human frailties began to take place in comics. At this point, representation of the body got rid of the necessity of perfection in comics and started to show diversity in terms of both spiritual and body representations.
Huxley, Gibson and Ormrod (2015) suggest that although the complications of a built masculinity in patriarchal society are being studied, very little has been written about the superhero and that this is surprising as superheroes in general display ‘idealized’ traits, often with exaggerated bodies.” (8) Despite the fact that comic book characters such as Conan the Barbarian represent masculinity due to their structure and characteristics, even a character known for his physical strength such as Superman does not have to look muscular in the periods when comics are adapted to television. The introduction of latex fabrics led to an increase in the number of superheroes wearing tights or one-piece latex costumes in the television and movie arenas, and this has become a situation that also concerns issues such as body representation, body shaming, and masculinity. This not only affected the individuals portraying the characters but also caused changes in the body structures of the comic book characters they represented. However, some of the latest superhero examples show that body representations have moved away from stereotyping and body affirmation has increased. Still, it is one of the controversial issues whether Marvel engages in body shaming with the “Fat Thor” and “Big Bertha” representations. When we look at the general situation, even today, male characters are represented as overweight and female superheroes are average or close to underweight. Therefore, this study will examine the development of body representations in Marvel comics and related adaptations.
Turning the Old Tales into “Odd Tales”: An Investigation of the Female Body and Sexuality in Transformations
Hazal Yonca Birincioğlu
Fairy Tales, Feminist Revisionist Mythology, Écriture Féminine, Female Body, Female Sexuality, Psychoanalysis
Transformations marks a stylistic change in Anne Sexton’s poetry since it allows the confessional poet to go beyond the personal sphere. Through deconstructing and re-telling seventeen fairy tales written by Brothers Grimm, Sexton identifies the patriarchal norms that dominate the plot and the moral of each tale. Through these fairy tales, she openly deals with subjects such as the female body, women’s sexuality, mental illness, incest, and sexual abuse which are deemed taboo in 20th century American society. However, Transformations cannot be regarded as a complete break away from the poet’s confessional style since it contains autobiographical details on which Sexton builds her critique. Therefore, Sexton not only criticizes the patriarchal norms that dominate gender roles and women’s image in literature but also gives a voice to the silenced “other” through raising her voice about her own traumatized relationship to her body and sexuality. This study investigates Sexton’s critique of the patriarchal norms surrounding women’s bodies and sexuality which is built on her own relationship to her body and sexuality while investigating the position of Transformations within feminist revisionist mythology as well as its relation to écriture féminine.
The Body We Inherit: Understanding Epigenetics, Attachment Theory, Narrative Therapy, and Mythopoetics
Epigenetics, Attachment Theory, Narrative and Storification Mythopoetics, Post Traumatic Growth, Emotional Intelligence, Emotional and Evolution, Intergenerational Trauma, Imaginary Network, Monster Theory
Beginning with Cohen’s Monster Theory, and the questions it raises about trauma as prompting change, this talk will explore how epigenetics reveals that family issues such as trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and more are passed down biologically. In addition to examining why there has been an explosion of psycho-emotional disorders, especially among young people, we might need to reframe this not as about deficits, but as about new ways of engaging with the inner and outer worlds (intra- and inter-personal) and how reckoning with the epigenetic effects of several generations of unprocessed trauma individually and communally in American culture (just one example of communal trauma would be the forced immigration of Africans to the Americas and their forced labour; this has epigenetic effects demonstrable today) that Generation Z, at the very least, may be experiencing the effects of (along with a constellation of other issues, technologic, economic, cultural, and so on). Maybe their increased sensitivities (the prevalence of what is being called emergent BPD in adolescents, for example) are a gift, not a pathology, a call to new ways of working with our limbic systems, a challenge to develop emotional and imagined competencies.
This discussion will draw on positive psychology, family constellation theory, recent breakthroughs in Post Traumatic Growth paradigms, and narrative-emotional therapy, exploring how family systems and dynamics using narrative therapy and mythopoetic imaginal healing strategies can help people harness the power of story to heal personal and family wounds, grow into their next level selves, find pathways for relationships to be revitalized, and learn the ways to tell their stories, orally or in written form, so others can enter them. Drawing on Heart Math, polyvagal theory, Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, Van der Kolk’s trauma work, Terrance Real’s Relational Life Therapy, Karla McClaren’s work on emotions, and Wolynn’s application of epigenetics to family constellation practices; it is trauma and ACEs informed, and will focus on intra, inter-, and transpersonal relationships and healing.
There is beauty in this body despite what the world has told you
Dying, Dead Bodies, Potentiality, Beauty
The dying body. Not something many of us think about, or consider beautiful, until the day when we find ourselves at the bedside of a loved. And many of us are surprised, shocked even, to see beauty there. And we will question all we have been told about the dying or dead body. Instead, we will see vulnerability, slowed down being-in-the-world and the space taken up as loved ones shrink to fit in the bed. The lowered lighting, the quiet room, the hushed tones, add to the sacredness of the moments spent in that bedside chair.
The pale skin, the greyness around the eyes, the frailty of the ill body, a body at rest. Of course, many struggle at the end of their days and there is loud breathing, restlessness, and discomfort but those who have found themselves in a hospice with exemplary pain control and symptom management may sidestep these indignities; all edifice and artifice stripped away. The immediacy of meeting bodily, emotional, and spiritual needs, the chance to enter reminiscence, the opportunity for forgiveness or reconciliation all exist in that dying body. The dying body is potentiality.
And what of the moment when death comes. Stillness like you have never experienced before. They were at peace you will say. The last moments, the last glance you will carry with you forever. You will remember them this way before the funeral home applies makeup and brushes their hair wrong. The way they briefly chatted to someone in the corner of the room that you could not see and asked them to wait. The last glance. The body at final rest. Beautiful.