Limits of the Human

Limits-2March 5, 2010
Annual EMC Conference
McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020)

The Early Modern Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara is pleased to announce our Winter Conference, “Limits of the Human ,” which will take place on Friday, March 5, 2010 in the McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020.

Cloning, organ farms, the completion of the Human Genome Project, recombinant DNA, cyborgs, artificial intelligence, and other manufactured life forms, all suggest that, depending on one’s point of view, the twenty-first century opens onto a horizon of radical possibilities for the future or cataclysmic end of what is meant by “human.” UCSB’s Early Modern Center Winter Conference, “Limits of the Human,” turns back to the early modern period to ask: before we were posthuman, how did we become human? How and why do early modern representations of hybrids, animals, monsters, anomalies, race, gender, and automata define what is human and separate out what is not? How do those things classified as non-human construct, reflect, or refract humanness? What innovations in technology, botany, labor equipment, law, and mathematical notation helped to calcify the boundaries of the human? How did Cartesian, Newtonian and Leibnizian systems of the world shape the conditions that Michel Foucault argues, “made it possible for the figure of man to appear”? In what ways were the “limits” always permeable, and how did they invite transgression and mutation? The EMC’s one-day interdisciplinary conference provides  a forum to explore early modern literary and cultural responses to the issues and questions that helped delineate  the limits of being human.

The conference will consist of panel discussions, as well as keynote talks by Bruce Smith (Dean’s Professor of English, University of Southern California) and Richard Nash (Professor of English, Indiana University).

The EMC thanks the following conference sponsors

Interdisciplinary Humanities Center

Graduate Division

Division of Humanties and Fine Arts

Graduate Student Association

Department of Philosophy, Department of German, Slavic, Semitic Languages, Comparative Literature

Conference Schedule

8:30-9:00 | Conference Registration and Coffee

9:00-9:15 | Welcome Address: Professor Ken Hiltner, Director of the EMC

9:15-10:35 | Keynote Speaker: Bruce Smith, USC, “At the Limits of the Human”
Introduced by Andrew Griffin, Department of English, UCSB

10:35-10:45 | Break

10:45-12:00 | Panel One
Moderator: TBA, Department of English, UCSB

Calley Hornbuckle: “Reorienting Enlightenment Hierarchies in Anna Letitia Barbauld’s ‘Hill of Science’ ”
Christian Quendler: “Scanning the Limits of the Human: Conceptions of the Camera Eye in Philosophy, Science and the Arts”
Laura Bovilsky; “Spenser and Descartes Versus the Emotional Robot”

12:00-1:00 | Lunch

1:00-2:20 | Keynote Speaker: Richard Nash, University of Indiana, “Overlapping Umwelts, Entangled Intra-Actions, and Early Modern Animality”
Introduced by Elizabeth Cook, Department of English, UCSB

2:20-2:30 | Break

2:30-3:30 | Panel Two
Moderator: TBA, Department of English, UCSB

Jeanette Nguyen Tran: “‘No theatre, no world’: Tamburlaine and the Limits of the Human on the Early Modern Stage”
Yael Nezer: “Bottom’s Metamorphosis: The Transgression of Human Boundaries”
Megan Palmer Browne: “Shirley’s Bird in a Cage”

3:30-3:45 | Break

3:45-4:45 | Panel Three
Moderator: Theresa M. Russ, Department of English, UCSB

Aaron Kunin: “Depicturing the Gothic Novel”
Christine Gottlieb: “Redefining the Dead: The Sexual Subjectivity of Corpses in The Revenger’s Tragedy and The Second Maiden’s Tragedy

4:45-5:00 | Closing

Conference Dinner

Participants in the “Limits of the Human ” Conference are invited to attend a dinner after the event, on Friday, March 5 at 6:30. Please email Billy Hall at if you would like to join us.