Call for Papers: ‘Ear Pieces: Listening, Diagnosing, Writing’, Faculty of English, December 2016

Image credit: The External Ear. Gray, Henry. 1918. Anatomy of the Human Body

Ear Pieces: Listening, Diagnosing, Writing

Faculty of English

Cambridge, 16-17 December 2016


Keynote Speakers

Carolyn Abbate (Harvard University)

Steven Connor (University of Cambridge)

Lennard J. Davis (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Mara Mills (New York University)


Organiser: Edward Allen (University of Cambridge)


Call for Papers

Ear Pieces is a new interdisciplinary venture, hosted by the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, and funded by the Wellcome Trust. Building on the latest research undertaken in the environs of sound studies, it is the first initiative of its kind to assess the mutual legibility of medical and literary records, and so to kindle a dialogue between specialists from the humanities, neuroscience, and clinical medicine. One aim of Ear Pieces is to illuminate, in the course of discussion, the definitional contours of harmful listening in the last 200 years, from colloquial strains of otitis – ‘glue ear’ and ‘swimmer’s ear’ – to peripheral kinds of hearing loss, impairment and excess, such as otosis, sound-blindness, melomania, and Involuntary Musical Imagery. How have such complaints been understood historically? Whose vocabulary are we drawing on when we speak of neurotological trauma? In what ways, and to what ends, have poets, novelists, and musicians addressed the challenges and opportunities of representing sonic modernity?

Supported-by-The-WTOver the course of 2 days in December 2016, a diverse group of listeners will meet in Cambridge to discuss some of these questions. In doing so, our aim is to excavate the parallel histories of otology and the humanities, broadly conceived, to evaluate their intersections and points of resistance, and to gauge their present affinities, in public policy and the popular imagination.

Established scholars, early career researchers, and graduate students are invited to propose papers of 20 minutes in length; panel proposals will also be considered. In the spirit of enabling interdisciplinary conversation, we hope to hear from anyone who’s interested in small or large ways in the medical humanities. Proposals might include, but are not limited to, the following subjects:

  • Fictional fantasies about, and aesthetic representations of, listening
  • Disabilities and disorders of the ear
  • Technologies of listening (sound telegraphy, telephony, phonography, radio, microphony, sound film, iPods and MP3s)
  • Medical techniques (auscultation, hearing tests, ultrasound)
  • Acoustical engineering
  • Music therapy, talking cures
  • Sound art and aesthetics
  • Muzak
  • Sound pollution, war, and the politics of noise abatement
  • Anthropologies and ethnologies of sound

Please send 300-word proposals for papers of 20 minutes, or 500-word proposals for panels of three papers, to Edward Allen – ejfa2 [@] – by Monday 29 August 2016. We plan to publish a selection of essays stemming from the event in a special issue of Critical Inquiry in 2018.

Details regarding conference registration will be made available in due course. All enquires in the meantime should be directed to Edward Allen.