CFP: Criminality, Liminality, and Imprisonment in the Early Modern Era (9/1/08; 10/24-25/08)

by Jessica C. Murphy

“Criminality, Liminality, and Imprisonment in the Early Modern Era”

Call for papers
Michigan State University, October 24 -25, 2008
East Lansing, Michigan

Guest speakers:
• Patricia Fumerton, University of California, Santa Barbara
• Niels Herold, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

The conference will also include a viewing and discussion of the 2005 documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars

The Department of English at Michigan State University, in conjunction with the graduate program in Early Modern Literature, is proud to host a conference on “Criminality, Liminality, and Imprisonment in the Early
Modern Era.” This conference will engage with early modern literary and cultural responses to the shifting definitions of criminality during the era, focusing principally on how the concept of imprisonment and “the
criminal” surfaced in drama, pamphlets, ballads, poetry, etc., either as a critique or valorization of criminality. We would like to explore how the laws designed to define and police the early modern criminal produced both literal and symbolic constraints that broadly affected early modern culture, creating and enforcing divisions in the national, urban and social landscape. Therefore, we invite papers that pertain to early modern law, mechanisms of social control and the demarcation of social and geographic space. Also, we hope to examine how early modern revisions to the ideas of criminality and imprisonment came to define or imagine particular segments of the populace as marginal or liminal, and how figures who were placed
into categories of “otherness” were represented in literature. Conversely, criminality was at times the basis of heroic status, and that also engendered prolific literary production. Early modern literature that took
up the trope of criminality often exploded the categories of otherness and the criminal as they were set down in law. Finally, a number of early modern authors were, at some point in their careers, classified as criminals; therefore, we welcome papers that address how early modern anxieties regarding criminality and imprisonment intersect with the biography of the writer.

We invite papers on any of the suggested topics listed below:
• Prison, imprisonment, and architectural forms of constraint
• The malleable definition of “crime” in the early modern period
• Early modern notions of redemption and correction
• The spectacle of punishment and torture
• Children, crime, and punishment/ Animals, crime, and punishment
• Vagrancy laws and vagrants
• Liminal and marginal spaces demarcated as criminal
• Monstrosity and criminality
• Criminality and the other (“Egyptians”, cannibalism, mariners, highwaymen, etc.)
• Surreptitious printing, cony-catchers and cut-purses
• Hysteria and paranoia
• Crime and the Crown

We welcome both graduate students and faculty. Presentations can be in the form of individual papers or panels. When proposing a panel, please include with your submission a short overarching description of the panel, as well as individual descriptions of each paper. We ask that all submissions include the presenter’s name, institutional affiliation and professional title. Please submit a 150-200 word proposal by September, 1, 2008 to: