Dr Maebh Long (Senior Lecturer, University of Waikato, New Zealand) will be presenting a paper entitled Altogether Immune: Modernism and Immunology, which is part of an exciting new research project that is pressing the boundaries of Modernist Studies and the Medical Humanities in fascinating ways.
Her talk will take place at 16.00 on Thursday, 28 June 2018 in the seminar room of Hallgarth House (Durham University English Department, 77 Hallgarth Street, DH1 3AY). Please note: Since this falls outside of term time should you be able to attend you will need a campus card to access the building, or otherwise please ring the bell at the entrance to the building.
Abstract: Altogether Immune: Modernism and Immunology
‘Novels’, writes Virginia Woolf, should be ‘devoted to influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia; lyrics to tooth-ache’. For too long, she argues, literature has rooted itself in the mind, and a ‘new language’ is needed to enable an aesthetic of the physical and the debilitated, a language ‘more primitive, more sensual, more obscene’. Woolf’s call came in a time when understandings of the relations between pathogens and immune defences were becoming popularised, and the body was increasingly understood not merely as a form susceptible to illness, but as a complex structure responding to invisible wars. New medical technologies led to new conceptualisations and anxieties about the vulnerability of the individual and the body politic to contamination. The rise of inoculation created a body protected from disease by the incorporation of disease, and thus a self whose victories depended on assimilation and the attenuation of the self. This paper explores the modernist subject as a medicalised one, bound by a system of vulnerable, porous, defensive structures, and located in this space between defence and exposure, between the immune system and germs, between technology, politics, and medicine.
Biographical Note: Maebh Long is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Her areas of interest include research on modernist and contemporary literature in Ireland, Britain, and Oceania, and research on literary theory and continental philosophy. She has published widely on Jacques Derrida and Brian O’Nolan/Flann O’Brien, and is the author of Assembling Flann O’Brien (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). Her edited edition of The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien has just been published by Dalkey Archive Press. She is co-investigator of the Oceanic Modernism project, which reads post-1960s independence and indigenous rights literature from the Pacific as a form of modernism. She is also in the early stages of a new monograph, entitled The Poetics of Immunology.