Philosophy of Horror - Keynote Speakers
Dr. Patricia Sheridan
In this paper, I will explore the intellectual milieu of eighteenth-century Britain as a backdrop for the rise of modern horror fiction. I will take as my starting points Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror and, the novel that started it all, Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. For Carroll, Walpole’s work represents a subversion of the rationalist and scientific hubris of the Enlightenment period. Reason and natural science are the bases, he suggests, upon which conceptions of nature and the natural are founded. Carroll concludes that this intellectual setting stirred a subversive fascination with what is unnatural, which find its expression in Gothic horror. While I don’t entirely disagree with Carroll’s analysis, I would like to offer a somewhat different view of the period in order to suggest some further ways of thinking about the rise of the genre. I want to focus on the rise of sentimentalist moral thinking in the eighteenth century and I will focus on Otranto as an example of the way sentimentalist themes make their way into the structure of horror fiction. The emotional impact of Walpole's novel is not, I want to show, simply a matter of Walpole’s subversion of scientific and rationalist conceptions of the natural world. I believe this enhanced picture of the period might give us some interesting means of thinking about the inception of horror fiction as well as horror fiction (books and film) up to the present day.
Dr. Patricia Sheridan is Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Guelph. Her research interest primarily focuses on early modern women philosophers, the work of John Locke and moral philosophy in the early modern period. Dr. Sheridan also has investigated the concept of virtue found in the works of Catharine Trotter Cockburn, Anne Conway, Damaris Masham, Mary Astell and John Locke - tracing the development of the idea of virtue through the period as well as examining the role accorded to the passions, in many early modern thinkers, as forming the virtuous agent.
The Obsolescence of The Human (TOOTH):
A Flossoffical Investigation through the Horrorscope, Enacted on Reticulated Youth (A·FIT·THEORY)
Dr. Nandita Biswas Mellamphy & Dr. Dan Mellamphy
The title is a double acronym, ripe-and-ready for marketing—i.e. capitalist co-option—and the talk itself will take up (if not take on) the trajectory of our current-day cyber-situation or what we have elsewhere called “the network-centric condition” (NCC·1701, Captain: our phase-shift into the post-human dimension). We will touch upon ‘doublespeak’ in our double-headed keynote, as well as ‘single speakers’ the likes of the dyslexic Alexa™-a.k.a.-Echo,™ Cortana,™ Duer,™ Evi,™ Google-Assistant,™ Siri,™ et-cetera—that is to say, we will talk about double-dealing multi-function tech-tools, their rapidly-growing usage, and the «sagesse» of such usage. In doing so, we hope to demonstrate the slow or not-so-slow/accelerating occultation of the human in ‘human interactions’ at the personal, interpersonal, sociocultural, civic, state and global levels—indeed the McLuhanesque ‘amputation’ of the human-all-too-human via the mechanism[s] of its modern-day interactions.
The argument, as it unfolds, is that—by extension—in our use of myriad techno-prostheses we are ourselves becoming prostheses of tech, and what’s more: prostheses ‘pushed to the periphery’ at-and-on every level (personal, interpersonal, sociocultural, civic, state and global), prostheses less-and-less ‘fit’ for up-to-date actions (all-the-more out-of-date, in other words). The meat of the matter is this: the prosthesis of ‘the human as such’—to wax poetic and poetically problematic—is beginning to bear a resemblance to bits of food that get stuck in the gleaming technological teeth of what Samuel Butler years ago saw as a new species (see his Book of Machines) and what Philip K Dick a-tad-more-recently reconfigured in the form of the so-called Palmer Eldritch (see his Three Stigmata); and lines of code make excellent floss. Hence “The Obsolescence of The Human (TOOTH): A Flossoffical Investigation through the Horrorscope, Enacted on Reticulated Youth (A·FIT·THEORY).”
Dr. Nandita Biswas Mellamphy teaches in the Department of Political Science at Western University. She is Research-Director of Western University’s Electro-Governance Group (the EGG), Research-Fellow of the Center for Transformative Media (CTM) at Parsons: The New School for Design (NYC), Research-Fellow of the Centre for War & Technology at the University of Bath (UK), Affiliate Faculty-Member of the Women’s Studies & Feminist Research Department and President of the WCWI Western Caucus on Women’s Issues at Western. ♢ Dr. Dan Mellamphy teaches in the Departments of Modern Languages & Literatures, Centre for the Study of Theory & Criticism, and Huron College Interdisciplinary Studies Program at Western University. He is co-founder of Western University’s Electro-Governance Group (EGG), Director of its Centre for Peripheral Theory (CPT), Research-Fellow at The New School’s Center for Transformative Media (CTM) in New York, and editor of The Digital Dionysus: Nietzsche & The Network-Centric Condition—an anthology he put together with Dr. Nandita Biswas Mellamphy.