Imagination and the Body in 20th-century Literature (Panel)


Comparative Literature / Women's and Gender Studies

Victor Xavier Zarour Zarzar (Graduate Center, CUNY)

Hale Sirin (Johns Hopkins University)

In the Arcades Project, Benjamin wrote that it is from the gates of the imagination that lovers and friends draw their energies. Over the past few decades, scholarship has been ever more inclined to treat the imagination not as false or unreal, but as an embodied, affective, and fluid mode of creating meaning and experiencing the world. The concept of bodily imaginaries in queer and feminist studies, for instance, seeks to overcome the strict duality between imagination and the body: as Maggie Nelson points out in The Argonauts, “in the field of gender, there is no charting where the external and the internal begin and end.”

This panel aims to foster a discussion on politics and the poetics of imagination in literature of the 20th century by inviting contributions attuned to issues of embodiment and materiality. We are interested not only in the ways in which material conditions affect the possibilities of the imagination, but also in how material bodies and the imagination shape, trigger, and affect one another in literary and cultural production—how bodily experience can be grasped in narrative discourse and, in turn, how narratives shape the imagination and our experience of the world.

We welcome papers on topics including but not limited to:

- Philosophy and literature of embodied cognition
- Figurative language and the body / illness and metaphor
- Literary experience, reading, and transformation of the self (Roland Barthes, Wolfgang Iser)
- Ekphrasis, mimesis, and other rhetorical exercises that mobilize and cultivate the imagination
- Figurations and dis-figurations of the self and the body
- Displacement and the exilic imagination
- Bodily imaginaries and (dis)ability
- Political uses and abuses of collective imagination
- Image, imagination, and embodiment in the digital age
This panel aims to foster a discussion on politics and the poetics of imagination in literature of the 20th century. We are interested not only in the ways in which material conditions affect the possibilities of the imagination, but also in how material bodies and the imagination shape, trigger, and affect one another in literary and cultural production—how bodily experience can be grasped in narrative discourse and, in turn, how narratives shape the imagination and our experience of the world.