Bodies of Art: Music, Literature, and Disability

An Interdisciplinary Symposium hosted by the Department of Fine Arts and the Department of English.

Saturday, April 9, 2016
Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Room 218 (Huntsinger) and Room 219 (Alden)


10:00-10:15am Welcome Remarks
Dr. Ryan Weber, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Misericordia University
Dr. Amanda Caleb, Associate Professor of English, Misericordia University

10:15-11:00am Session I – Visual Arts in the Community
Gwen Harleman, Arts Coordinator at Verve Vertu
You are cordially invited to visit the Verve Vertu exhibit throughout the conference.

11:00am-12:00pm Session II – Disability in the Undergraduate Curriculum
Undergraduate Workshop: MU Confronts Disability in the Literary Classroom
Moderator: Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, Professor of English, Misericordia University

Lunch on your own.

1:15-2:15pm Session III – Disability and Film
Representing Disability in Documentary Film
Dr. Ryan Watson, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Misericordia University

2:15-3:15pm Session IV – Music and Literature
Writing Identity Through Musical Practice: Shell Shock, Feminism, and Disability in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Detective Fiction
Stephen Armstrong, Doctoral Candidate, Eastman School of Music

3:15-3:45 Break

3:45-4:45 Session V – Musical Prodigies
The Child Prodigy: The Price of Success
Dr. Steffan Rhys Owen, Physician in the National Health Service, United Kingdom

7:00 Concert Lemmond Theatre
Thaddaeus Bourne, Baritone
Matthew Lobaugh, Pianist and Accompanist

This event was made possible through a grant from the Soyka Fund for the Humanities.

Dr. Ryan Weber, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, and the Fine Arts Department wish to acknowledge and thank the following individuals at Misericordia University for making this conference possible:

Dr. Thomas Botzman, President, Misericordia University
Dr. Russ Pottle, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Rita Molino, Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Elisa Korb, Chair, Fine Arts Department
Dr. Amanda Caleb, Associate Professor of English
Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, Professor of English
Jeffrey Kelly, M.S., Manager of Cultural and Special Events and Theatre Manager
Paul Krzywicki, Assistant Director, Marketing/Communications, Public Relations
Marianne Puhalla, Staff Writer, Public Relations

A special thank you is extended to the Speakers, Performers, and Misericordia University departments who assisted with this event:

Speakers and performers:
Gwel Harleman, Arts Coordinator, Verve Vertu
Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, Professor of English, Misericordia University
Dr. Ryan Watson, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Misericordia University
Stephen Armstrong, Doctoral Candidate, Eastman School of Music
Dr. Steffan Rhys Owen, Physician in the National Health Service, United Kingdom
Thaddaeus (T.J.) Bourne, Baritone, Instructor of Voice, Butler University
Matthew Lobaugh, Pianist and Music Director of City-Wide Youth Opera, New York City

Misericordia University Marketing, Security, Facilities, IT and PC Support Group, Printing Services, and Metz Culinary Management.

Paper abstracts

Abstracts and biographies in order of presenters

Visual Arts in the Community
Gwen Harleman, Arts Coordinator, Verve Vertu

Gwen Harleman will discuss how Verve Vertu, a community based art studio, impacts the lives of artists with emotional, physical, and intellectual challenges by "tapping into their creative energy.”

Biography: Gwen Harleman has spent the past 20 years engaged in “tapping into the creative energy” of artists with special needs that includes individuals with intellectual, physical and emotional challenges. She has been the Director of the Verve Vertu Art Studio for the past 10 years. Gwen believes in the philosophy that expression through artistic medium is a wonderful avenue allowing one a glimpse of the creator’s thoughts and dreams. “Textile and Fiber design have always brought me joy.” Sharing her passion for this art form is a rewarding experience. Nature and the love of outdoors inspire her work as an artist and instructor. Annual trips to Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire bring new experiences, which she enjoys sharing in the classroom.

Undergraduate Workshop: Misericordia University Confronts Disability in the Literary Classroom
Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, Professor of English Misericordia University

From Shakespeare's portrayal of the villainous Richard III to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's insight into the underpinnings of postpartum depression, literature is ripe with characters and issues that expose the ways in which society marginalizes--and even isolates--individuals with disabilities. By establishing markers of difference in fictional characters, writers ask their audience to question the social, cultural, psychological, and physical impact of stereotypes in their own environment.

Biography: A member of the Misericordia faculty since 2000 and previous English Department chair, Dr. Rebecca Steinberger's specializations include Shakespeare, Irish Studies, British Literature, the Rhetoric of Terrorism, and Disability in Theatre. She is the author of three books: Encountering Ephemera 1500-1800: Scholarship, Performance, Classroom, a collection of essays that provide a guide making historic material relatable to students in the technology-driven 21st century; Shakespeare and Twentieth-Century Irish Drama: Contextualizing Identity and Staging Boundaries, and The Renaissance Literature Handbook, an edited collection of essays and resources for students and teachers of Renaissance literature. She is working on her fourth book, London in Shred and Patches, a city poetic. Dr. Steinberger holds a Ph.D. in English literature and criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Wilkes University and her master’s in English with a concentration in Medieval and Renaissance drama and Irish literature from the University of Scranton. She resides in West Pittston with her son, Luca.

Representing Disability in Documentary Film
Dr. Ryan Watson, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, Misericordia University

My presentation will look at a variety of documentary representations of disability in light of the history and theory of documentary film and video, with close attention paid to the engendering of intersubjective engagement and empathic identification.

Biography: Dr. Watson is an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Misericordia University in Dallas, PA. He teaches broadly in the areas of film/media history, theory, and aesthetics. Dr. Watson’s current research focuses on the efficacy and instrumentalization of documentary practices, particularly as they intersect with advances in media technologies, radical political movements, human rights, archives, and theories of witnessing and testimony. He is currently working on a book project, based on this research, titled Militant Evidence: Witness, Archive, and the Radical Documentary. His writing has been published in Afterimage, Animation Journal, Invisible Culture, and the Journal of Film and Video.

Writing Identity Through Musical Practice: Shell Shock, Feminism, and Disability in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Detective Fiction
Stephen Armstrong, Eastman School of Music

Musical hermeneutics has been a particularly fruitful area for musicologists since the 1990s, but scholars rarely shift the hermeneutical focus to works of fiction. In this paper, I explore the pervasive musical references and metaphors within the mystery novels of first-wave feminist Dorothy L. Sayers, who was a gifted amateur musician as well as one of the first women to earn an M.A. from Oxford University. In the course of her Lord Peter Wimsey series, Sayers uses both musical practice and shell shock as recurring elements that mediate the relationship between Lord Peter and his sleuthing counterpart Harriet Vane. Drawing on biographical material in addition to an in-depth reading of Sayers’s fiction, I extend contemporary literary scholarship that has long noted the parallels between Sayers’s own life and that of her fictional counterpart, Harriet Vane. In chronicling the romance between Vane and Wimsey, Sayers mirrored her growing independence as a working woman of means. At the same time, Sayers complicates and subverts Lord Peter’s identity through his practice as a musician as well as through his sometimes-disabling struggles with shell shock. Yet a close reading of the extensive musical content of her novel Gaudy Night reveals that Sayers sought for a resolution of the gender binary through an “androgynous” polyphony, interpreting the egalitarian contrapuntal structure of eighteenth-century duo concertos as a metaphorical goal for her own feminism.

Biography: Stephen Armstrong is a doctoral student at the Eastman School of Music, where he studies virtuosity, mysticism, and musical hermeneutics. His interests also extend to musical references in non-musical media, which has led him to such eclectic topics as musical metaphors in the detective novels of Dorothy L. Sayers and sound design in Japanese gaming. He has presented at chapter meetings of the American Musicological Society as well as at the North American Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, and he recently published an article in the Journal of the American Liszt Society. He has given talks on game music to meetings hosted by the Word and Music Studies Association and the North American Conference on Video Game Music. An active freelance pianist and recitalist, he has performed throughout his native Michigan as well as in Umbria, Italy. He holds master’s degrees in musicology and piano performance from Michigan State University.

The Child Prodigy: The Price of Success
Dr. Owen Steffan Rhys, Physician in the National Health Service, United Kingdom

For centuries, the child prodigy has been a subject of particular interest to the public and scientific community. In spite of the attention, it is a phenomenon that remains little understood. It is reported that prodigies often display behaviors indicative of psychological dysfunction in adulthood. There is, however, insufficient research regarding the cause. This paper looks at the prodigy from a developmental perspective, considering the price of precocious achievement on the child’s psychological well-being. This retrospective paper analyzes the correspondence of two celebrated prodigies, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), comparing their upbringings to contemporary prodigies, and the ‘typical’ child (using current child development theory).
The paper demonstrates that the prodigy’s upbringing is unusual from a developmental perspective, and suggests that it is a pathologizing process. It is a theory that affiliates the advancement of one cognitive process with the stunting of another. The paper found that parental practices that encourage optimal talent development simultaneously leave their children emotionally deprived. It is also shown that Mozart demonstrated tendencies indicative of an attachment disorder, and the principles of Bowlby’s ‘Attachment Theory’ (1958) were used to explain his psychological maladjustment. The paper explores Mozart’s geographical separation from his mother and his emotional detachment from his father; consequences of his musical progression that left him without an attachment figure. Bowlby’s theory offers a possible explanation for Wolfgang’s dis-inhibited temperament. However, the prodigy’s unusual upbringing also exposes flaws in Bowlby’s doctrine, forcing us to reconsider the validity of this widely accepted theory.

Biography: Originating from Wales, I was brought up in a family with a strong musical background. Breaking from tradition, I was drawn to a career in medicine. During my time at the University of Leicester I took a year out of my medical studies to undertake a Master’s degree in Medical Humanities. Under the supervision of the biographer Professor Martin Stannard, my thesis explored the phenomenon of the musical prodigy from an interdisciplinary perspective. In particular, I explored the nature versus nurture argument in the acquisition of talent, the idea of the prodigy as a construct of society, and the impact of precocious talent on the child’s global development. Following graduation from medical school in 2013, I have been working as a junior doctor for the National Health Service for the last 3 years. I plan to begin my specialty training in General Practice/Family Medicine from August 2016, and intend to continue my research within music alongside my medical career.

Evening Concert

Baritone Thaddaeus Bourne is on faculty at Butler University where teaches voice, lyric diction, and directs the Butler Opera Theatre. He has previously served on the faculty of the University of Connecticut and as a guest director for Hartford Opera Theatre’s New in November Festival. This year he was the baritone soloist in the Yellow River Cantata produced by the Confucius Institute and premiered the role of the Angel of the Lord in William David Cooper’s Hagar for the National Opera Convention. Later this year he will reprise the role of Falke in Die Fledermaus with the Martina Arroyo Foundation’s Prelude to Performance program. In the 2014-15 season he sang Bob in Menotti’s The Old Maid & the Thief with Alessandro Siciliani (Opera Project Columbus), the title role of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (New York Lyric Opera), and Orff’s Carmina Burana (Butler Arts Festival) as well as concerts in Hartford, Indianapolis, and at Lincoln Center. Recent performances include Perizonio in Cimarosa’s L’impresario in angustie, Perichaud in Puccini’s La Rondine and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly as part of the Montefeltro Festival (La Musica Lirica), Happy in La fanciulla del West (Indianapolis Opera) with James Caraher and John Hoomes, El Dancaïro in Bizet’s Carmen (Long Island Opera), Junius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia (Hartford Opera Theatre), Reverend Hale in Ward’s The Crucible conducted by Willie Anthony Waters, Conte Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (New York Lyric Opera), Peter in nsel und Gretel (Connecticut Lyric Opera), Dr. Falke and Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus (UConn Opera & Opera del West), Major-General Stanley in Pirates of Penzance (Simsbury Light Opera), and the title role of Le nozze di Figaro at Gottischer Saal in Salzburg.

Pianist Matthew Lobaugh is a freelance vocal coach and collaborative pianist currently living in New York City, where he maintains a private opera coaching studio and is the Music Director of City-Wide Youth Opera. He has been hired as an audition accompanist for Loft Opera New York, CCM in Spoleto, Carnegie Mellon Regional Auditions in Manhattan, St. Petersburg Opera, Music Theatre Bavaria New York Regional, DC Public Opera, Verismo Opera of New Jersey, Crested Butte Music Festival and North Shore Music Festival. Matthew began training at Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) and graduated with B.M. degrees in both Piano and Vocal Performance. Matthew worked toward the M.M. in collaborative piano from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (Cincinnati, OH) and also was a participant in the Artist Diploma program in opera coaching. A graduate of the Domingo-Thorton Young Artist Program at the Los Angeles Opera (2008-10), Matthew's professional operatic credits include the Cincinnati Opera, where he served as Assistant Conductor (2007-10), and the Virginia Opera, where he was Chorus Master and Cover-Conductor (2009-10). Locally, Matthew has worked with NorthShore Music Festival, Loft Opera, Opera Breve, Vertical Player Repertory, Capitol Heights Lyric Opera, New York Lyric Opera Theatre, Wendy Tauscher Productions, Martha Cardona Opera Theatre, and Amore Opera. Matthew is also featured on the companion CD to the Menotti Arias for Soprano Anthology, published by Hal Leonard (2008).

Call for papers

Bodies of Art: Music, Literature, and Disability

The Department of Fine Arts and the Department of English at Misericordia University are hosting a one-day interdisciplinary conference on April 9, 2016. We invite submissions of paper and panel proposals (3-4 speakers) that address the theme: Bodies of Art: Music, Literature, and Disability. As part of the university’s Medical and Health Humanities initiative, this interdisciplinary conference seeks to bring together scholars of musicology, literature, and related disciplines for a one-day symposium that investigates issues related to:

  • Specific representations of disability throughout music and literature, including works by disabled and non-disabled artists;
  • Scientific, anthropological, and vernacular images of disability and how they have influenced music and literature;
  • Performance in the everyday lives of disabled individuals;
  • Theorizing disability through the arts;
  • Narratives of illness and disability;
  • Examples of music/literature that represent and/or challenge stereotypes of disability;
  • Mental illness and creativity;
  • Accessibility;
  • (Ab)normalizing Literature, Music, and Thought;
  • Other topics related to the conference theme.

Papers that are interdisciplinary in nature are especially welcome.

Proposals for individual papers (20 minutes) should include: full name, contact information, institutional affiliation; short bio (no more than 150 words); and an abstract of no more than 300 words.

Proposals for themed sessions should include: full name, contact information, and institutional affiliation of all participants; short bio of all participants; an abstract of no more than 700 words that summarizes the content of each contribution as well as a description of how the papers relate.

Submit completed proposals in a Word (.doc/.docx) format to: Dr. Ryan Weber and Dr. Amanda Caleb no later than October 1, 2015.

Participants will be notified of their acceptance by November 1, 2015. Conference fee of $50 provides for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as admission to the evening concert.

This conference is generously supported by the Soyka Fund for the Humanities.
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