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Southern Appalachian Student Conference on Literature

Department of Literature and Language

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Erin Kingsley will present "Bodies in Excess: A (Re)Consideration of Gestational Modernism." 

Erin Kingsley

Erin Kingsley earned her PhD in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2014), her MA from the University of Colorado at Denver (2006), and her BA from George Fox University in Newberg, OR (2001). She currently teaches literature and humanities at King University in Bristol, TN. Dr. Kingsley specializes in digital pedagogy, Virginia Woolf, and body theory, especially disability and gestational narratives of British modernism. She is completing her first monograph on the representation of pregnancy in British modernism, entitled Flesh and Steel: Pregnancy and Birth in the British Modernist Novel. She has published on pregnancy, immigration, isolation, the body, and lesser-known female writers in Feminist Modernist Studies, Philological Quarterly, Virginia Woolf Miscellany, and Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, and has presented on these topics at numerous international conferences. She is currently serving on the committee planning the inaugural conference for the new Feminist (inter)Modernist Association, to be held in Colorado in June 2018.

Abstract:  "Bodies in Excess: A (Re)Consideration of Gestational Modernism"

Some bodies behave in space, and some bodies, quite frankly, do not. These misbehaving bodies function in excess; they are altogether too much, too visible, and too unruly. Who polices and categorizes which bodies are “docile” and which bodies are “deviant,” and how is this policing enacted in literature? Much attention has recently been paid to the disabled body in literary studies, and in modernist studies there exists a clearly demarcated assemblage of critical interest in the maternal body, the steel bodies of Marinetti’s futuristic machines, the perverse bodies of James Joyce, the homosocial bodies of D.H. Lawrence, and even the ailing bodies of “sick” modernist writers like Virginia Woolf. I claim, however, that the pregnant body deserves further scrutiny, both in twentieth century and contemporary literature in general, and modernist literature specifically. The pregnant body matters.

Now, just why the pregnant body matters in modernist studies will be the focus of my talk. I will chart the three major ways traditional British modernism as a movement tries to make sense of the pregnant body: 1) as birth from “above” (the mind), conscripting birth to the lens of the masculine metaphor or the product of the male mind (and Woolfian androgyny); 2) as birth from “below” (the body), the messy, highly racialized and utterly corporeal feminine birth, seen most clearly in Jean Rhys and Olive Moore; and 3) as joint birth from “above and below,” seen in the onslaught of techno-science and eugenics that sought to harness the power of birth and ameliorate the unruly female body by applying masculine scientific scaffolding (seen in Futurism and many little-known science fiction texts). Throughout, we will seek to understand how such “deviant” bodies inform and change the modernist movement, and how gestational literature of the early 20th century undergirds contemporary representations of pregnancy and reproduction.

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