CfP: The Body and the Built Environment, 25 June, Durham

The period between 1750 and 1918 is widely acknowledged to have been one of dramatic societal and cultural change, not least in terms of people’s experience of the spaces in which they lived. The unparalleled urbanisation that took place over the course of the long nineteenth century necessitated new ways of existing in increasingly built up environments. The move to such locations demanded new habits, routines, and modes of movement, all of which had a discernible impact on the body. As Elizabeth Grosz points out, ‘through exercise and habitual patterns of movement, through negotiating its environment whether this be rural or urban […] [that] the body is more or less marked, constituted as appropriate, or, as the case may be, an inappropriate body for its cultural requirements’ (1994). Where, for example, the navigation of uneven rural terrain would have strengthened certain muscles, the negotiation of flat, urban streets produced a markedly different body. Beyond the purely muscular level, the countless cultural elements of the nineteenth century city also impacted in numerous ways upon the embodied subject.

This one-day interdisciplinary symposiuminvites papers that explore how the shifting relationship between the body and the built environment was interrogated in literature and culture of the long nineteenth century. The symposium aims to stimulate academic discussion on a range of topics relating to embodiment and architectural space in the period ranging from 1750-1920. As such, we welcome papers from those working in the fields of Literature, History, Medical Humanities, Geography, Architecture, Philosophy, Film and Media, Psychology, Modern Languages, Gender/Women’s Studies, Law, and Politics.

Paper topics might include, but are not limited to, considerations of: questions of ownership and access; health; urban planning; agoraphobia and other spatially related disorders; sensory perception; the diseased body; policing, surveillance, and public order/disorder; sanitation and pollution; and phenomenological approaches to the body and space.

Potential research questions might include:

  • In what ways did the built environment either encourage or preclude access to certain kinds of bodies in the long nineteenth century?
  • How was the relationship between the embodied subject and architectural space interrogated in literature and culture of the period?
  • What impact did scientific and medical advances in the understanding of the human body have on the construction and/or organisation of the built environment?

Please send abstracts of 250 words for 20-minute papers to: bodybuiltenvironment@gmail.com by 17 May 2019. For further details, visit: http://bodybuiltenvironment.wordpress.com

This event is supported by the Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies, and is presented in association with the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University.