CFP – GOTHIC STATES: 29-31 March 2018

Since its inception, the Gothic has been a favorite aesthetic of artists
exploring extreme states, whether psychological, political, or
numinous, at times of imperial expansion, social protest, world war,
global revolution, and government oppression. At the same time, its
history dovetails with the emergence of new media from early
modern tragedy to eighteenth-century travel writing and circulating
library fiction, nineteenth-century melodrama, early photography and
cinema, comics and graphic novels, popular music and television,
and digital entertainment. Even today, the Gothic thrives as a viable,
living language for those features of the psyche, the social order, or
the cosmos that are least susceptible to representation and least liable
to be controlled and assimilated.
Our chosen theme (“Gothic States”) brings together these concerns by asking scholars to
consider the Gothic’s function across differing “states” as a language for addressing incipient
nationalisms, whether to endorse or to critique them, as well as for representing divided
consciousness, whether sexual, political, filial, or religious. The most powerful Gothic texts, in
fact, place these concerns in dialogue with one another, depicting individuals and communities
under duress in times of social and political upheaval. We therefore aim to galvanize our
understanding of the Gothic as a single aesthetic tradition and invite scholars to create new
perspectives on the Gothic in a transnational, trans-media, and comparative context. What role
has the Gothic played in how we imagine the constitutions of both individuals and nations? How
has the mode been visualized across different media and technologies of representation? Finally,
what lends the Gothic its power? What produces the ruptures, fears, and anxieties we associate
with it? What fuels its ability to cross media with such opportunistic ease?
Please send 250-word abstract proposals for 20-minute papers and a 150-word vita to Michael
Gamer, mgamer@english.upenn.edu, by 1 January 2018.
The conference’s plenary speakers will be:
Maurizio Ascari, University of Bologna
Robin Furth, Marvel Comics, Co-author of the Steven King Dark Tower series
Diego Saglia, University of Parma
Angela Wright, University of Sheffield
The conference is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies and the Department of English at
the University of Pennsylvania, with generous support provided by the School of Arts and
Sciences, University Research Foundation, the Penn Humanities Forum, the Program in
Comparative Literature, the Program in Cinema Studies, the Restoration-Victorian reading
group, and the Gen-Sex Reading Group.

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