CFP: International Conference PRISMES: « Breaking Through: Impaired/heightened Senses », 8-9 Jan. 2016

Breaking Through: Impaired/heightened Senses

8-9 January 2016

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, Institut du Monde Anglophone

EA 4398: Langues, Textes, Arts et Cultures du Monde anglophone (PRISMES)

“I see it feelingly”: this conference will address the way in which damaged, distorted or enhanced senses can lead to a dazzling display of in-between perceptions and sensations. Impaired/heightened senses may relate to biological causes. A tribute will be paid to Oliver Sacks’s ground-breaking work on photophobia, visual agnosia (an impairment in recognition of visually presented objects), drug-induced hallucination and musical perception, and on the multiple arousal of simultaneous senses. As he puts it for instance in a New Yorker article, « A Neurologist’s Notebook, The Mind’s Eye: What Blind Men See » (2003): « The world of the blind, of the blinded, it seems, can be especially rich in such in-between states—the intersensory, the metamodal—states for which we have no common language. »
In addition to such enlightening neurological approach (case studies, biological input for instance), we are looking for critical readings of symptomatic or creative shifts, from a psychoanalytical perspective for instance.

Papers may consider:
– transmuting genres: for instance the way in which Sacks’s work has been translated in popular culture and brought to the stage by Peter Brooks, or has inspired films and writers like Will Self
– transmuting limits: the way in which sensory loss heightens other perceptions. Visual loss may develop auditory, tactual, and other perceptual skills.
o impaired hearing and the consequences upon language development ; monitoring or yielding to the parasiting fruitfulness of white noise and sound/signal distorsion; deaf musicians, auditive wizards.
o impaired olfactive perceptions (from discomfort, total loss of sensitivity and acumen, to hyper acuteness arousing multiple fragrant delight)
o impaired vision :

–     the experience of blindness, the colour of blind writing/music (Milton; George Du Maurier, blind in one eye, Wyndham Lewis,  etc…
–     the tragic flaw and anagnorisis; maimed, mute revelation (Gloucester’s blindness when he sees, for instance)
–     seeing the invisible: epiphanies, seeing into “the life of things”, the rhetoric of revelation (transcendental poets?); the return of immanent presences in poetry (e.g. Theo Dorgan); mixing the senses in poetic recitation (e.g. Billy Ramsell)
–     distortion (misappropriation/misreading of space; loss of 3 D and the unbearable/delectable flatness of being; for instance the Pre-Raphaelites, contemporary art or writing [e.g. McCarthy]
– illness (Virginia Woolf, « On Being Ill », « the fingertip feel of a creature in a salt-water pool »). Visual artists also experiment with ways of conveying and transcending limits (e.g. Donald Rodney’s wheelchair, materializing his presence/absence during the exhibition)
– hallucinations and drugs : from De Quincey and Coleridge to contemporary art. Intoxicating distorsions: translating Malcolm Lowry’s heightened senses.
– making sense of shared space ; designing shared concepts and spaces; the community: from the fellowship of seers to handicap/disabilities studies
– new technologies and sense replacement: revisioning colour blindness and translating the ticking sound of auditory implants: the hybrid post-human
– the question of genre: Gothic senses (flickering light and filtered sound), postmodern disorientation (lack of depth), religious texts (reaching for revelation) the medium (cf films on photophobia like The Others), meta-perceptual contemporary art.

Please send an abstract (maximum: 300 words) and a short bio to Catherine Lanone (, as well as Wesley Hutchinson ( and Line Cottegnies (  by 30 June 2015.