Corpus Historicus: The Body In/Of History

University of Silesia in Katowice
Faculty of Philology
Institute of English Cultures and Literatures

Sosnowiec, Poland, June 30th‒July 1st 2017


The significance of the body in the context of historical narratives has been paramount for the understanding of the contemporary human condition and of the past by which it has been shaped. Our perception of the body and the bodily, seen as both the object and the subject in and of history, has influenced our current understanding of both individual and collective narratives of the past, since, in the words of Donna McCormack, “[f]lesh is woven into history as both the bloody deaths necessary to achieve the desired goals and the skin on which it has become possible to write these new foundational narratives.”[1]

Therefore, the conference aims to address the ways in which the body and the bodily have been conceived of in various historical contexts, ranging from past developments in the field of medical study, epitomised in Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, to the history of futuristic reconceptualisations of the bodily and the human, exemplified, for instance, by Blade Runner. Thus, we invite scholars working in various disciplines and fields of study to consider the body as both an instrument and a subject of history, and to engage in a discussion concerning the representations of the corporeal in different media across cultures and centuries.

Dr Willemijn Ruberg (University of Utrecht), Dr Richard Sugg (form. of Durham University) and Prof. Zbigniew Białas (University of Silesia) have kindly agreed to be the conference’s keynote speakers. In their plenary lectures these three inspiring scholars and writers will discuss such diverse subjects as forensic practices in the Netherlands between 1800 and 1945, a history of terror in Britain and the bodily experience of travelling.

Dr. Willemijn Ruberg is associate professor in cultural history at Utrecht University. Her research addresses the cultural history of gender, sexuality, the body and emotion. She is currently writing a monograph on the making of forensic knowledge on body and mind in the Netherlands, in 1800-1930. Dr. Ruberg will give a lecture entitled: "The criminal’s hair, body and mind: forensic practices in the Netherlands (1800-1945)".

Dr. Richard Sugg is the author of six books, including John Donne (2007), Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires (2011, 2nd edn 2015), The Smoke of the Soul (2013) and A Century of Supernatural Stories (2015). 2017 will see the publication of three new books: The Real Vampires, A Century of Ghost Stories, and A Century of Animal Stories. Fairies: A Dangerous History is due out with Reaktion in spring 2018. He has published or contributed to articles in Social History of Medicine, The Lancet, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine, and The Sun, and appeared several times on international radio and television programmes. Dr. Sugg will speak on "A Brief History of Terror".

Prof. Zbigniew Białas is Professor of English, Director of Institute of Anglophone Cultures and Literatures, Head of Postcolonial Studies Department at the University of Silesia, Katowice (Poland) and author of four novels. He was Humboldt Research Fellow in Germany and Fulbright Senior Fellow in the USA. His academic books include Post-Tribal Ethos in African Literature (1993), Mapping Wild Gardens (1997) and The Body Wall (2006). His novel, Korzeniec, was awarded Silesian Literary Laurels, won the title of Best Polish Prose of 2011 and was turned into a successful theatrical play. Białas edited/co-edited twelve academic volumes, wrote over sixty academic essays and translated English, American and Nigerian literature into Polish. Prof. Białas's lecture is entitled: "'Nobody they call me.' The body as a coffin".

Specific topics may address, but are not limited to:

  • the body in / as history;
  • the body politic / the politics of the body;
  • histories of bodies;
  • the body in historiography and philosophy of history;
  • the body and history in literature and other arts;
  • the body in cultural history;
  • the body as canvas / text / space / territory / map;
  • geography of the body;
  • the body and ahistoricity;
  • the history of medicine (health, disease, pain, pleasure, physiology, body parts etc.);
  • death of the body / the corpse in history;
  • the body and trauma / suffering / memory;
  • ideal / beautiful / liminal / monstrous bodies in history;
  • histories of adornment, modification and augmentation of the body;
  • transhumanism, posthumanism and futures of the body;
  • the body and material culture / the materiality of the body;
  • history and the body at the intersections of the humanities, science and policy;
  • methodologies in body-related history;
  • animal bodies in history / histories of animal bodies;
  • flesh and meat in history / histories of flesh and meat.
  • We welcome scholars from various academic fields to submit their proposals (ca. 250 words) by 30 January 2017 to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by 1 March 2017.  A selection of papers will appear in a post-conference monograph.

    The conference fee is 450 / 350 PLN (105 / 80 EUR) for full fee participants and graduate students respectively. The fee includes a meal, coffee breaks and conference materials.

    Further details will be gradually available on:

    Conference Organisers:

    Rafał Borysławski, Ph.D., D.Litt.,
    Alicja Bemben, M.A.,
    Marta Gorgula, M.A.
    Justyna Jajszczok, M.A.,
    Aleksandra Musiał, M.A.
    Patrycja Sokołowska M.A.

    [1] Donna McCormack, Queer Postcolonial Narratives and the Ethics of Witnessing (London – Oxford – New York – New Delhi – Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), 2.

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    Wydział Filologiczny Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
    ul. Gen. S. Grota-Roweckiego 5
    41-205 Sosnowiec