EVENT Mar 22
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Unfeeling: Call for Academic Papers

Categories: Postcolonial, American, Hispanic & Latino, British, Gender & Sexuality, Literary Theory, Women's Studies, World Literatures, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Medieval, Early Modern & Renaissance, Long 18th Century, Romantics, Victorian, 20th & 21st Century, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature
Event Date: 2022-03-22 Abstract Due: 2022-02-22

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‘Unfeeling’ in relation to literature may evoke thoughts about depictions of cold-hearted characters, or repressive worlds in dystopian literature. It may also evoke the supposedly “emotionless” character of disinterested responses to art and literature, and of data-driven distant reading techniques. Affect and reader-response theories tell us that our feelings matter when we read, but which feelings have historically been prioritised and at whose expense?


This call for papers encourages researchers to explore emotion and feeling through the lens of unfeeling: that is, unfeeling as a deliberate approach or stance as adopted by audiences, writers and critics. Papers might explore how unfeeling results in disinterested or indifferent attitudes and aesthetics - from the cool to the careless - or strategies and practices that avoid or disencourage empathetic readings, emotivity or embodiment. They may also consider how such approaches might produce modes of resistance, receptivity, or even humour, among other things. We particularly encourage contributors to discuss texts in light of Xine Yao’s Disaffected (2021), a pertinent monograph which illuminates how ‘universal feeling is a ruse when only some feelings are privileged as true’ (210).

Among the questions we are interested in are: how might unfeeling be adopted as a mode of resistance by writers from marginalized and/or potentially minoritized groups? How should critics write about reader response when feelings and affective responses cannot be universalised? When do literary critics choose to be unfeeling; and what are the consequences of that? How might biopower manifest itself in literary criticism? How might unfeeling allow us to access a non-anthropocentric understanding of the ‘inanimate’: objects, things, concepts, and worlds? Do poems—a genre once associated with an overflow of emotion—present other modes of being for non-humans that do not revolve around feeling, or might other forms and genres achieve this too? How might sentimentalism have been, and perhaps, continue to be recruited for colonial, national or literary projects? What are the political possibilities of unfeeling? 


More potential topics for exploration: 

The adoption of unfeeling as a mode of resistance  
(Un)feeling in narratives about race, disability, the climate crises, and the refugee crisis. 
The medicalisation of feeling /unfeeling
Assumptions about the sub-literary nature of texts that depict certain feelings and the readers/readings which respond to them
Depictions of unfeeling characters (past and present)
Political / literary apathy and its usefulness; or investigations of how different modes of literary criticism resist the culture of apathy or desensisitation
What does mean it for writing to be done carefully or, conversely, carelessly - to intend to be tactless, offensive or hurtful
Anti-relational readings in queer theory (Lee Edelman) and focusing on potential futures instead (Jose Esteban Munoz)
What might be distinctive about queer unfeeling, or unfeeling as a means of self-defence, or as a subversion of heteronormative sentimentalism?
The non-universality of feelings 
How does unfeeling look in earlier texts e.g. in the Victorian Age or alongside the eighteenth-century sentimental novel?
The use of humour in disability narratives
 Objects and 'unfeeling' things in past and present literatures

Academic articles should be 3000-5000 words. All submissions should use MHRA style referencing, and include a bibliography and an author bio. We encourage close-reading of literary texts as much as thematic exploration. We welcome contributions exploring any genre and time period.


Please send completed submissions to editors.moveabletype@gmail.com. Feel free to get in touch to briefly discuss your article topic prior to submission. 


Deadline: 22nd February.



Sarah Edwards