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Monsters

Conference held at The University of Western Australia, the University of Reading, and online

Image: Mariusz Slonski, Wooden Forest Path in Mist with Monster Lurking, unsplash.com

Date: 6–9 September 2022
Venue: The University of Western Australia, the University of Reading, and online
Call For Papers Deadline: The Call For Papers is now closed.
Registration: If you plan to attend in-person and or wish to pay in Pound Stirling (£) please REGISTER HERE VIA READING UNIVERSITY. Reading In-Person Attendance - £15 | Virtual for Whole Conference – £10 (closes 26 August 2022). If you plan to attend in-person and or wish to pay in Australian Dollars ($) please REGISTER HERE VIA EVENTBRITE. UWA In-Person Attendance - $30* | Virtual for Whole Conference - $15* (*Some additional booking fees will apply)
Enquiries: monstersconference2022@gmail.com 

Download a copy of the Conference program

 

Keynote Speakers

Dr Victoria Flood (University of Birmingham): ''I Want to Believe’: Medieval Monsters and the Limits of Credibility'

 

Medieval English history-writing presents to the modern reader a curious propensity for the suspension of disbelief. Alongside accounts of kings and battles, green children emerge from beneath the earth, fairy feasts are discovered inside hillsides, and demons prophesy the future. Yet medieval historiography by no means represents a space of unbounded credulity, and where we find belief in monsters and the monstrous, it is selective, strategic, and implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) political. Drawing on examples from twelfth- and thirteenth-century Latin chroniclers including William of Newburgh, Gerald of Wales, and Gervase of Tilbury, my lecture will explore the ways in which the monstrous and strange phenomena of medieval history were used to draw the boundaries of community. While my work builds on vital scholarship undertaken in line with Critical Race Theory (cf. Mitmann 2006; Conklin Akbari 2016; Heng 2018), which asks of whom the medieval west made monsters, it asks instead whose monsters medieval English authors were prepared to believe. It suggests that the distinction between history and fiction was contingent not on the nature of the events detailed, but the communities to whom witness was attributed. While clerical, male authors writing within England, or aligned with English institutional power, were considered, along with their immediate communities, credible arbiters of the marvellous, remarkable, and monstrous, the narratives (or perceived narratives) of other communities (in my examples, Welsh, Jewish and Muslim people, or those imagined to be witches) were understood to be fictions falsely interpreted as fact, the stories of unsophisticated minds. My lecture explores how constructed distinctions between fact and fiction drew and maintained lines of power and cultural exclusion.

Victoria Flood is is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham. She has published widely on medieval romance, and the relationship between magic and geographical and political imaginings in the languages of medieval Britain. Her first monograph, Prophecy, Politics and Place in Medieval England, a comparative study of the uses of prophecy in England, Wales and Scotland, appeared in 2016. Her second monograph, Fantastic Histories, on medieval fairy belief and history-writing, is forthcoming with Manchester University Press. 

Prof Marguerite Johnson (The University of Newcastle): 'Making a Monster, or Justifying Hunting Women'

 

Since recorded history in the west, women have been equated with the monstrous and hunted accordingly. The concept of turning human prey of either sex into monsters to justify their hunting, capture, and sometimes slaughter is not a new one. Scholarship on the Other is regularly characterised by such models. 

But I wish to contribute something new to this long-standing research by examining how the female body is explicitly inscribed with particular markers that turn them into monsters and thereby validate the treatment meted out to them. The physical characteristics I concentrate on are commonly associated with female features traditionally associated with sexual attraction and/or sexuality: hair, nipples, and genitals/buttocks. I show how, within a monstrous paradigm, these physical markers are inverted by excessiveness or exaggeration and, in turn, require the male hunter, often in roles including soldier, explorer, priest, master, even entrepreneur, to interpret the unnatural markers and act accordingly. In this scenario, the woman is not only cast as monster, but the man is cast as cataloguer, scientist, protector, coloniser, and/or civiliser. 

Marguerite Johnson is Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research expertise is predominantly in the area of ancient Mediterranean cultural studies, particularly in representations of gender, sexualities and the body. She is especially interested in the ways in which the ancients write about women, sexuality and degrees of power. This research theme also underpins her other areas of enquiry, Classical Reception Studies, and ancient magic.

Dr Ionat Zurr (The University of Western Australia): 'The monstrous act of caring and curating'

 

Following Groys (2008) suggestion that art in the age of biopolitics is “…defined by the aspiration of today’s art to become life itself, not merely to depict life or to offer it art products”, this talk will focus on art that involves life. Rather than focusing on the artefact itself, I will expand to the systems of its care. Butler, wrote in the 1872 science fiction novel Erewhon “…for an art is like a living organism – better dead than dying” reflecting on ideas of life, art as well as cultural and technological evolutions. Drawing on living and semi-living artworks I will re-visit this idea asking when does caring becomes a monstrous act; through the exploration of the apparatuses and institutions which keeps art alive in the gallery and outside to it. With the advancement of automation and the desire to shift to a metaverse existence, I will illustrate how these systems which attempt to be independent of human labour, more efficient and standardised offer a monstrous fantasy of control and life free of suffering.
In these days of war, pandemic and mass extinction, I will explore the “aesthetic of care” for artworks and beyond.

Dr Ionat Zurr is an artist and a researcher. She is the Chair of the Fine Arts Discipline at the School of Design at the University of Western Australia and SymbioticA academic co-ordinator. Ionat is considered a pioneer in the field of Biological Arts; she publishes widely and exhibits nationally and internationally in places such as Pompidou Centre, MoMA NY, Mori art Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, Ars Electronica and more. Zurr ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; their work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food.

Call For Papers

Limina Journal in collaboration with the ARC Centre for Excellence for the History of Emotions and the Department of Classics at the University of Reading invites proposals for 20-minute papers or posters from postgraduate and early-career researchers that explore the theme of ‘monsters’.

Paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Monsters in various media and genres (e.g. folklore, mythology, literature, TV, movies, fantasy, horror, etc.)
  • Illustrations or representations of monsters
  • Creation/construction or deconstruction of monsters
  • Adaptation of monsters
  • Monsters and identity
  • The abject
  • Monsters and emotions (e.g. fear, love, etc.)
  • Posthuman, nonhuman, and animal studies
  • Considerations of ‘Othering’
  • Use of ‘monster’ as a descriptive term (e.g. conceptions of appearance and character, such as ‘monstrosities’, ‘ugliness’, ‘deformity’, etc.)

The conference will be split between in-person and virtual presentations at both The University of Western Australia and the University of Reading. We propose to have the conference in early September 2022.

Posters will be available to view online via Sharepoint so attendees can view at their leisure. Presenters will be asked to also send in a short video/audio (max. 5 minutes) explaining their poster which will also be included in the Sharepoint. Presenters will be given the opportunity to present their posters virtually via a Poster Presentation Session during the conference. Posters will be judged by the committee and a monetary prize will be awarded for the Best Poster

The Call for Papers is now closed.

Registration for in-person or virtual attendance to the conference will open in August 2022.