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EVENT Nov 14
ABSTRACT Apr 15
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"Medicated" Nature, Poisoned Nature: Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and Nineteenth-Century American Medicine (MMLA Convention)

Chicago, IL
Organization: Midwest Modern Language Association
Event: MMLA Convention
Categories: Women's Studies, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, Environmental Studies, Science
Event Date: 2024-11-14 to 2024-11-16 Abstract Due: 2024-04-15

In the preface to the second edition of Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. refers to his work as a “medicated” novel. He also claims to have written his “medicated” work to provide a meditation on the doctrine of “original sin,” wondering whether the eponymous character is morally responsible for her amoral nature. With a background in the medical field, however, Holmes approaches the concept of morality and amorality from a purely physical point of view, forcing his readers to confront both the fact of the impressionable nature of the human body as well as the potential long-term effects on human psychology of disability induced by bodily trauma. As Dawn Keetley and Matthew Wynn Sivils quite rightly observe in their introduction to 2018’s Ecogothic in Nineteenth Century American Literature, “Holmes depicts his heroine as entrapped and cursed within a natural environment that is much wider than the castle or the ruined abbey: it is an environment of mountains, rocks, and snakes—of predator and prey, reproduction and extermination, and the inevitably interwoven fate of humans and nonhumans.” Elsie’s literal entrapment in the natural world and in her poisoned body reminds readers that they too are entrapped in a vulnerable physical body that must be protected by the science of medicine.

This panel seeks presentations that analyze how mid-nineteenth-century American authors grappled with the medically vulnerable human body in their texts. Special consideration will be given to those who work with Holmes or other authors he interacted with, such as Martin Delany, but any presentation on a work published between 1840 and 1900 in the United States is welcome.

Paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

·       The representation of medicine and/or poison

·       Medical practice and malpractice, hoaxes, and folk medicine/herbalist practice

·       Pregnancy, pre-natal, and post-natal care, as well as abortion and contraceptive practices

·       The Ecogothic

·       The boundary between human and nonhuman

·       Scientific racism or other medical approaches to race

·       Discourse on sexuality and sexual attraction as naturally occurring phenomena

·       The “medicated” novels of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

·       Depictions of disability and historical discourses on disability

For consideration for this panel, please submit an abstract (250-350 words) to Joe Hansen (jhansen5@luc.edu) via an email with the subject “MMLA Abstract” by April 15, 2024. Current membership in the Midwest Modern Language Association is not required to submit, but all presenters must be members by the time of the convention.

The Midwest Modern Language Association Convention, “Health in/of the Humanities,” takes place November 14-16, 2024, in Chicago, IL at Hilton Chicago. The convention is 100% in-person. Please see https://www.midwest-mla.org/convention for more information.

jhansen5@luc.edu

Joe Hansen