Sensing Affect: The Physiology and Philosophy of Feeling 1688-1840
Cambridge, May 2003
SENSING AFFECT: THE PHYSIOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY OF FEELING 1688-1840 Faculty of English, University of Cambridge Friday 2 May - Saturday 3 May 2003 at St John's College, Cambridge External Observer: Professor Catherine Belsey, Cardiff University CALL FOR PAPERS Ambiguous, elusive, and often defying disentanglement, the interrelationships of sensation, sensibility, emotion and cognition remain as challenging across modern academic disciplines as they were during the long 18th century. Our understanding of affect (passion, emotion, feeling, mood, illness) is constantly reformulated, taxonomized and theorized in fields of knowledge as diverse as aesthetics, philosophy, literary studies, psychoanalysis, biology and neuropsychology. Affects stand at the crossroads of body and mind, the conscious and the unconscious, the communicable and the incommunicable, and draw the very notion of the boundary into crisis. This conference invites contributions addressing eighteenth century and Romantic attempts to conceptualize various modes of feeling; and the resultant redefinition and shifting of mind / body boundaries and related controversial binaries of the age (such as nature/culture, female/male, object/subject). Feeling in this context is a wide-ranging and negotiable term, inflected by the age's ideas about sensation, perception, cognition, imagination. Attempts to grasp discursively perception or emotions -- in the arts (literary, plastic and dramatic), philosophy and medicine -- were inevitably, fruitfully and often subversively entangled with preconceptions about body, mind and soul, fuelling ongoing inquiries into the seat of feeling, its nature and location in relation to the body, and the anatomy of human subjectivity. Besides tackling the intersection of bodies, minds and affects, the conference also aims to probe the link -- and thus affectively transcend the boundaries -- between 18th-century and Romantic formulations of feeling and the discourses of today's literary and cultural criticism, aesthetics, philosophy, natural and social sciences. Topics to be addressed might range from the nerves to the Sublime, from laughter to torture: the mental, bodily and spiritual experience of emotions or states of consciousness (love, desire, pleasure, pain, melancholy, fear; thought, imagination, perception); individual and fellow feeling (sympathy, compassion, sentimentality); excesses of feeling (sensibility, madness, sexual passion, religious or political enthusiasm); forms of disaffection or insensibility, and alteration of feeling (violence, cruelty, drug-taking, delusion, anaesthesia); feeling (affective and physical) and gender, national identity, imagination, memory, trauma, history, ethics, rhetoric, aesthetics, culture, manners, ideology, poetics, pathology. This is a conference for graduate students researching the period 1688-1840. All papers will be given by students, with faculty members chairing sessions of 20-minute papers. Catherine Belsey will act as an external observer and will comment on all the papers given at the conference. Although the conference is hosted by the English Faculty, it is aimed at an interdisciplinary audience, and welcomes contributions from students working in any relevant fields. Please send proposals comprising the name and institutional affiliation of the presenter, and a title with abstract (300-500 words) as a Word attachment (preferred format) or hard copy by 31 March 2003. These and any further enquiries should be addressed to Rebecca Barr (email@example.com), Jesus College, Cambridge CB5 8BL or Louise Joy (firstname.lastname@example.org), Newnham College, Cambridge, CB3 9DF, UK.