Call for Papers – Queen Mary PGRS Virtual Conference ‘Contagion: Spread the Word’

Queen Mary PGRS Virtual Conference:
Contagion: Spread the Word 12 July 2021

Keynote Speaker: Dr Elizabeth Outka (University of Richmond)
Due to the global pandemic, the word “contagion” may instantly inspire thoughts related to sickness or disease, but “contagion” has numerous metaphorical applications as well. William S. Burroughs in The Adding Machine (1986) states that:

“The Word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognized as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host […]. The Word clearly bears the single identifying feature of virus: it is an organism with no internal function other than to replicate it-self.”


This one-day, interdisciplinary conference is organised by the English Department’s Postgraduate Research Seminar (PGRS) Committee at Queen Mary University of London: https://queenmaryenglish.wordpress.com/conferences/contagion-conference/.

We welcome proposals from graduate researchers in literature and related disciplines that ex-plore the theme of “contagion” across periods and genres.
We encourage broad interpretations of the theme.

  • Possible topics include but are not limited to:
  • Historical outbreaks of disease
  • Epidemiology literature
  • Legal developments regarding medicine and medical qualifications
  • Medical figures in history and literature
  • Sickness/disease as metaphor
  • Spread of literacy and knowledge vs censorship
  • Letters and postal systems, epistolary novels
  • Spread of literature through social media
  • Spread of (mis)information
  • Illness and prejudice
  • Imaginative contagion (e.g. the outbreak narrative, ‘zombie culture’, vampire fiction)
  • Bloodlines and the preoccupation with birth and class
  • Migration narratives and travel writing

A 250-word abstract and 50-word biography should be submitted to qmenglishpgrs@qmul.ac.uk by 1st May 2021.

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