Please join us for the penultimate Sensible Flesh seminar. All are welcome and there is no need to register. Followed by drinks and a discussion.
Laura Davies (Oxford): Samuel Johnson and the Speaking Body
This paper focuses on a personal crisis of speech suffered by Samuel Johnson in 1783: a period of total speech loss (aphasia) caused by a stroke, which compounded his already extensive difficulties with speech (attributed by some to Tourette’s Syndrome, and others to an unknown psychological cause). Through an exploration of Johnson’s extensive reflections upon his voice and orality, as well as the theories of the causes of his impairment posited by various medical practitioners who attended him, Laura will trace the ways in which twenty-first-century assumptions about the relationship between the voice and the body and our models of oral affect and authority have developed from eighteenth-century origins. In particular, this paper will discuss the ways in which attitudes towards speech disorders illuminate the supposedly `normal’ relation between the voice, the mind, and the body, and the complex entanglement of philosophical, theological, literary, and medical concepts of `the voice’, whether it be the human voice, the voice of God, the voice of inspiration or conscience, or the poetic voice.
Sarah Pett (York) – Embodied Meaning and Stories in J.M. Coetzee
Using the work of novelist and Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee as its field of reference, this paper seeks to delineate the ways embodied existence is entangled with the stories we tell about ourselves and that are told about us. Through an engagement with the body’s role in the construction and interpretation of a life as meaningful (or not), through both self-reflection and collective social, political, and cultural evaluation, this paper is in part an ethical enquiry into the logic by which this collective dispenses or denies value to individual corporeal and existential attributes. The narration of chronic disease and disability—and the narratives that emerge from these states—reveals how our perception of certain lives as insufficiently meaningful contributes to their ethical devaluation, and ultimately engenders a phenomenon of discursive exclusion termed ‘cultural disability’. Through a close reading of Coetzee’s work, this paper will further unpack this concept to suggest that, in its sensitive evocation of culturally disabled narratives, experimental fiction such as Coetzee’s provides a singularly fertile environment to critique the ways value is dispensed to or denied from embodied existence.
Date: Monday 5 March
Place: S8.08 (History Dept.), King's College London (Strand Campus)
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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