19th-c Aetiologies

Nineteenth-Century Aetiologies, Exoticism, and Multimodal Aesthetics

University of Liverpool, 2-4 April 2013

Of illness and exotic curatives, one hardly escapes solidago odora, ass’s milk, juice of millipedes, senna, horse dung, and snake oil. Medical narratives during the nineteenth century manifest somewhat irreconcilable cross-modalities of enthusiasm and fear with ‘otherness’. Drawing inspiration from early Greek philosophy, the post-Enlightenment art flourished with a focus on various modes of otherness; debating determinism, slavery, forgiveness, and nationalism while bringing together concepts that play major roles in our contemporary pedagogical approaches. Though it is not often emphasized, modes of eroticism in prose, poetry, and painting, whether of metaphorical or mythological conceptualisation, communicate certain entanglements with ‘otherness’. Given that today, multimodal normativity in aesthetics has moved in part a considerable distance from the concept of individualism, but not necessarily from egotism, how can it be read on account of mere ‘embodiment’? Multimodality, then, having been acclaimed with much achievement in current scholarship of literature and linguistics, is indebted to a prominent array of historical theories and practices mainly expanding on historiographies of otherness and aetiology.  

How can ‘otherness’ be configured in multimodal aesthetics today, compared with the aftermath of the Enlightenment? Take for instance “our” entrance into a visual exhibition displaying the portrait of St Damien of Molokai (1840-1889) and a quote, famously by Leucippus (c. 5th Century BCE): “οὐδὲν χρῆμα μάτην γίνεται, ἀλλὰ πάντα ἐκ λόγου τε καὶ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης (Nothing happens at random, but everything from rational principle and of necessity)”. What happens here―one may claim at any given time―tends part of its semiotic bearing to hermeneutic consistency in order to be meaningful. How can we discuss the workings of ethics in this example? How does ‘otherness’ configure the contextual and conceptual aesthetics of aetiology?

In recent years, research into aesthetics and modality has often closely edged towards semantic drifts. Through systematic attempts, for example, multimodality has come to attach mind and body in the contemporary understanding of cognition and stylistics, at the expense of ignoring historiography and by means of re-phrasing definitions of ‘embodiment’, as if bending over to cultural studies. Given this realisation, in which contextual paradigm do iconography and tonality of exoticism and multimodality unfold? What is the locus of agency in contemporary reception of multimodal aesthetics but also within the historical context of the nineteenth century? Is ‘otherness’ historically in favour of/at odds with aesthetic racialization? What is the position of authenticity and otherness in socio- and psycholinguistic studies?

Philosophy, anthropology, literature, art history, psychology, music, medical humanities, and linguistics scholars are welcome to participate. The conference will expand on representations of otherness considering the following and other relevant themes:  

  • Multimodality in perspective: word-image aetiologies
  • Musical exoticism and nationalism, tonalité moderne
  • Mind/brain/body relations, embodied cognition
  • The exotic pharmacy after the Enlightenment
  • Masculine tropes of otherness
  • Feminine as exotic, female as aetiology
  • Artefacts as modes of aetiology
  • Aetiology, illness, and idealism
  • Ethics and aesthetic racialization
  • Narrative, egotism, individualism, and the multimodal “I”
  • Architecture and sculptures of difference
  • Colour, texture, and shape in meaning
  • Orientalism, historicism, and exotic icons
  • Haptic perception, emotional stimulation
  • Medical consumerism and exotic conceptions
  • Sensational consciousness, spatial indifference
  • Exoticism and nineteenth-century moralists
  • Courage-exoticism, Romantic rarity
  • Insanity, hard and soft determinism

Workshops:

1- Iconography, Cross-Modality, and the Body

This workshop addresses a new perspective into modalities and intersections, particularly in relation to the workings of ‘bodies’ in iconography. Nineteenth-century iconography and its various aspects including its contemporary reception will be put into discussion.

2- Representations of Otherness and Beauty 

This session invites research into the gendering of aesthetics and aesthetic racialization. Social semiotics and pedagogical approaches will be explored. Methodologies and the practice of nineteenth-century otherness and beauty will be explored.

Participation:

To submit individual proposals for 20-minute papers + CV/Biog. note, and for panel proposals of up to three papers, each 20 minutes, email: painpara@liv.ac.uk Deadline is 15 February 2013. Two postgraduate bursaries will be available, memorial of Dr Wasfia Mhabak. Discounted registration fees will be available to members of Embodiments Project Series. A selection of presentations will be considered for publication as 2013 special issue of the International Journal of Literature and Psychology: http://literatureandpsychology.liv.ac.uk