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VariAbilities 2017


The Same Only Different?

Senate House, University of London.

Malet Street, London, WC1E, England

Tuesday and Wednesday

6 & 7th June 2017

In the third iteration of the Variabilities Series, we will take stock of the academic work done on the “body” in “history”.


When we study the “Body” should we restrict ourselves to impaired bodies or make comparisons with sports bodies? Or should a conference discussing the body entertain papers on both impaired and sports bodies?


When we consider “history” we must ask ourselves when did history begin, and has it ended? Variabilities III is casting its nets as widely as possible, with no methodological assumptions, beginning or end dates, with as wide scope for dialogue as possible.



We are pleased to announce that Prof. Miriam Wallace of New College Florida will be the keynote at Variabilities III.



The Spector of the Singular Body in Frankenstein (1818): Difference and Constructed Community


Bodily impairment reminds us constantly that we are at heart, embodied—not merely a mind imprisoned in a body, but a subject constructed not only in language, but in flesh. Social activist and political approaches to minimizing the impact of impairment on the real lives of persons have been widely successful in ameliorating for instance, encounters with the built landscape and institutional access. But what gets left behind in these approaches? Sometimes the upbeat call to understand disability only in terms of inhospitable physical structures or technological or prosthetic mediation evades the ways that the body itself and impairment too ebb and flow, treating disability as so “constructed” that we can simply construct our way out of it. As effective as it has been, the very useful unifying term “disability community” or even “crip community” has a way of eliding the precise specificity and the loneliness of one’s individual embodied experience and interface with the material and social world.






Tuesday 6th July




Session 1, 09:30 – 11:00. Post ‘Disability Studies’ Theory


·      Bee Scherer, Christ Church University: Variable Bodies in Buddhist Past and Present

·       Sian Bride, University of Winchester:Lesbians and Tattoos- Cesare Lombroso and Queer Body in Conversation.

·      Simon Jarrett, Birkbeck, University of London: Savage Idiots and Barbarian Imbeciles: What Eighteenth-Century European Explorers Saw.



Coffee Break 11:00 – 11:15



Keynote, 11:15 – 12:00.


Miriam Wallace, New College, Florida: The Spector of the Singular Body in Frankenstein (1818)



Lunch 12:00 – 13:00


Session 2, 13:00 – 14:45.      Partial Bodies.


·       Adleen Crapo, University of Toronto: The Body Everywhere.

·       Jessi Parrott, University of Warwick: Prosthetic Pomp – The significance of Samuel Foote’s Amputation to his Performance in The Nabob.

·      Ryan Sweet, University of Exeter: Killer Legs: Artificial Limbs and the Question of “Normalcy” in Nineteenth-Century Literature.

·       Declan Kavanagh, University of Kent: Boswell’s London Journal as Illness Narrative.



Coffee Break 14:45 – 15:00



Session 3, 15:00 – 16:30. Getting On With It.


·      Travis Lau, University of Pennsylvania.Disability and Romantic Medicine: The Case of the Pneumatic Institute

·      Teresa Michals and Claire McTiernan, George Mason University: “All Children, Except One, Grow Up”: Peter Pan, Mary Rose, and Ashley

·      David Turner, Swansea University: Eighteenth-Century Mobilities




Optional Pay As You Go Group Dinner Tuesday Evening at a nearby Local Restaurant.


Wednesday 7th June




Session 4, 09:15 – 10:45. Narrating Variable Bodies.


·       Clare Walker-Gore, Cambridge University: The Additional Attraction of Affliction’: Disability and Sexuality in Barchester Towers.

·       Tina Welch, University of Winchester: The Imagined Emaciated Body in Late-Medieval English Memorial Sculpture.

·       Will Visconti, University of Sydney: The Infinite Variety of La Casati



Coffee Break 10:45 – 11:00



Session 5, 11:00 – 12:30. To Die, to Sleep No More!


·       Stephen Guy-Bray, University of British Columbia: The Value of Torpor

·       Stephanie Wright, University of Southampton: The Disabled Body, Dead or Alive. An Exploration of Disability in a Romano British Cemetery Context.

·       Madeleine Mant, University of Toronto: Violence and the marked body: skeletal evidence for gendered violence in London during the long eighteenth century.


Lunch 12:30 – 13:30


Session 6, 13:30 – 15:00. Carving Out a Body.


·       Dawn Kaczmar, University of Michigan: Frankenstein, Slaughterhouses, and Blood.

·       Gina Wittlich, Universität Düsseldorf: Narrating and Narrated Bodies – The Effects of the Triangular Communication between Body, Memory and Language on the Narration of Self.

·       Wendy Turner, Augusta University: The Forensics of Rape, Madness, and Death Outside the Gates of Medieval London.



Coffee Break 15:00 – 15:15



Session 7 15:15 – 16:45. Blood and Body


Joseph Holloway, University of Exeter: Death Infecting Life: Conjoined Twins; Personal Identity and the Abject.

Marianne Legault, University of British Columbia: Hideous and Mutilated: The Abnormal Body in Early Modern French Fairy Tales.

Carolyn Day, Furman University: Consuming Fashions & Emulating Illness: The Tubercular Chic in Early Victorian England




16:45 – End of Conference!!!!!!