EVENT May 04
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Un-Faced: Facial Disfigurement in American Literature, Film, and Television

Innsbruck, Austria
Organization: University of Innsbruck
Categories: American, Interdisciplinary, Popular Culture, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy
Event Date: 2020-05-04 to 2020-05-05 Abstract Due: 2019-12-23

The face is a person’s foremost marker of identity. It harbors four of our five senses, and it is a crucial tool of communication. What goes on in the brain is performed on the stage that is the face, which can be read to a certain extent. It reveals but also conceals.

When the face is disfigured, all of its major capacities are affected. Moreover, because it is visible (in most cultures) and deviates from the norm, it often evokes shock, disgust, shunning, and ridicule in people. This is emphasized by the fact that facial disfigurements have had a long history of mostly negative associations: disfigured equals evil, villainous, or criminal; it may be the result of God’s punishment; it is a medical curiosity and challenge; it marks the ultimate other. From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” to The Dark Knight’s Joker and Two-Face, to The Hound in Game of Thrones, it is no wonder that the disfigured face has attracted writers, filmmakers, and showrunners alike.


In this symposium, we look forward to discussing the disfigured face in its fictional representation – in literature, film, as well as television (or web) series. Possible areas for contributions include but are not limited to facial disfigurements

-  in Gothic films and literature
-  as manifestations of the grotesque
-  in the context of “freak shows”
-  as a medical curiosity and challenge
-  through the lens of disability studies
-  with their sociological, psychological, and ethical ramifications
-  in the context of diversity and representation
-  within the history of superstitious beliefs
-  as the extra-ordinary and mysterious other
-  in comparison to animals

We call for proposals that investigate these and other aspects as they occur within film and media studies as well as literature. We welcome media-specific as well as intermedial approaches and invite submissions that range from individual case studies to more comprehensive analyses with a macro perspective.


This symposium is organized by Gudrun M. Grabher and Cornelia Klecker with the Department of American Studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.


A selection of essays based on the conference papers will be published as an anthology edited by Gudrun M. Grabher and Cornelia Klecker.


Please send a 300-word abstract plus a short CV in one file to:
-  Cornelia Klecker (cornelia.klecker@uibk.ac.at) and
-  Gudrun M. Grabher (gudrun.m.grabher@uibk.ac.at).

Deadline for submissions is December 23, 2019.



Cornelia Klecker