Call for Papers: The Beautiful Body and Its Discontents, Toronto, Canada, April–May 2015

pregnant-runnerThe fit body is thus the conspicuous product of the late-capitalist work ethic. It is the body as the focal point of an industry of self-care, a book of personal narrative upon which is inscribed the extent to which you have won at the game of contemporary life. Each hard-fought-for, shiny ripple of muscle is forever bound up in two economies—one of production, and one of desire. (Alang, ‘Must Fit Bodies Be the Product of Hard Work?’)

In a recent article on Hazlitt, Navneet Alang identifies a discourse of labour that accompanies the aesthetics of the beautiful body: it is the ‘locus of how capitalism has turned the self into its most valuable commodity.’ Alang mobilizes a popular form—the middle-brow blog—to talk about how contemporary popular and celebrity culture connect beauty with hard work, a new form of virtue within a late-capitalist work ethic.

“The Beautiful Body and Its Discontents” is a panel in the Northeast Modern Language Association 46th Annual Convention, which is arranged by Ryerson University and takes place in Fairmont Royal York Hotel between April 30 and May 3, 2015. This panel is co-chaired by Sarah Kastner and Emily Murphy.

They invite papers that interrogate the intersections highlighted by Alang: how do capitalism, popular and celebrity culture, contemporary media outlets, and the self-as-commodity shape our understanding of bodies? In what ways are cultures of resistance to normative, commodified discourses of the body vulnerable to co-optations by the very systems they speak back to?

We welcome submissions relating but not limited to any of the following topics:

    • The body on display: Bodies and film; celebrity culture; optics and erotics; digital selfhood and (re)branding the body;
    • The consuming body: Health food and optics; healthy and unhealthy environments; fatness and capitalist ethics;
    • The sick body: Mental illness in popular culture; mental wellness and cultures of positivity; mental health and productivity; slow violence, slow death, and illness as spectacle;
    • The ‘fit’ body: Disabled embodiment; commodity cultures and the ‘impaired’ body;
    • The (re)productive body: Pregnancy and motherhood; competitive parenting and the child as commodity.

Please submit abstracts to CFP 15244 through the centralized NeMLA system at Do not send abstracts to the co-chairs! Deadline for abstracts is 30 September 2014.

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