November 22, 2017

Foss Presents Paper at British Women Writers Conference

On June 23, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a paper titled “Ann Yearsley, Earl Goodwin, and the Politics of Romantic Discontent” at the 25th meeting of the British Women Writers Conference, held this year at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

There is a dearth of substantial critical studies of Earl Goodwin in general, and while the few out there have helpfully illuminated the play’s representation of the historical plight of women and the poor during Anglo-Saxon times, as well as its application to their predicaments in England and France during the end of the 18th century, this important tack has left unexplored the ways in which Yearsley also is clarifying and extending her anger and frustration about the class- and gender-based discrimination she experienced firsthand in the fallout with her mentor Hannah More over the profits from her first book.

Foss’ paper fills this gap, explicating the many ways in which Earl Goodwin represents, on one level, her ongoing response to the defamation she suffered in the wake of More’s public campaign to ruin her reputation. The paper also encourages a re-visioning of the overtly personal rejoinders to More as already reflective of her discontent with economic, political and social injustice. That is, documenting the inextricability of the play’s explicit social and political critiques with Yearsley’s ongoing response to the More fiasco in fact reinforces the extent to which her more familiar initial reactions are as fundamentally politically as they are personally motivated.


Foss Publishes Book Review

Professor of English Chris Foss has published a 1,536-word book review of Sonya Freeman Loftis’ monograph Imagining Autism: Fiction and Stereotypes on the Spectrum as  part of an exciting new initiative, The ALH Online Review Series X, from top-flight Oxford University Press journal American Literary History (ALH).  You can check it out at:

Foss Lectures in Liverpool

On Wednesday, March 1, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a 45-minute lecture as part of the Disability and the Emotions Seminar Series hosted by the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University.

His talk, “‘For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts’: Dis/enabling Narratives and the Affect of Pity in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Birthday of the Infanta,’” Foss argued that Wilde’s fairy tale about the death of a performing dwarf at the Spanish court may appear mired in damaging stereotype and maudlin melodrama, but it nonetheless suggests more progressive emotionally based possibilities for sympathy, acceptance and even identification rather than paternalistic pity. Wilde’s text invites readers to recognize its seemingly simultaneous manipulation of the narrative toward a reliance upon and a critique of the consumption of pain necessary to the workings of the affect of pity. It further forces readers to acknowledge their own complicity in this pity and pain, ultimately revealing crucial complexities inherent in such emotional responses to disability.


Foss Presents Paper on Claudia Emerson’s “Impossible Bottle”

On Oct. 8, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a paper titled “Moulting Anatomies: Cancer, Disability, and Resilience in Claudia Emerson’s Impossible Bottle,” at the Midwest Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association annual conference, held this year in Chicago.

His paper surveyed all 16 poems from the volume’s opening section, Anatomies, explicating Claudia’s subtle and sophisticated framing of binaries such as interiority/exteriority, presence/absence, past/present, permanence/impermanence, and perfection/imperfection. In the end, her exploration of the multiple layers of the question of mortality raised by disease, disability, and death reveals the many ways in which beauty survives amidst fragility and loss.

Foss Featured in WalletHub Article

Professor of English Chris Foss was among a panel of experts featured in a new WalletHub article, “2016’s Best and Worst Cities for People with Disabilities.”  He offered answers to questions about the financial challenges facing persons with disabilities, the top five indicators in evaluating the best cities and the policies/programs that increase inclusion and quality of life.  You may access the piece at:

Foss Presents Pedagogy Paper in Cardiff, Wales

On Sept. 1, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a paper with an unfortunately long-winded (though appropriately Victorian) title, “Consuming The Yellow Book: On the Decadent Pleasures and Aesthetic Perils of Exploring the Contemporary Afterlife of the Fin-de-Siècle Literary Scene through a Fully Online Summer School Course,” at the British Association for Victorian Studies annual conference, held this year in Cardiff, Wales.

This pedagogy-focused paper provided a tour of the UMW Blogs and VoiceThread websites through which students discussed their readings and presented their work for his May/June 2016 online course ENGL 375B4, Late Victorian Decadent Literature—a course revolving around the groundbreaking avant-garde literary magazine The Yellow Book, the complete digitized volumes of which are available through the wonderful electronic resource The Yellow Nineties Online.

Overall, Foss suggested that digital means of consuming the Victorians hold more pleasures than perils, for instructors and students alike, and that such formats should play an increasingly important role in the contemporary afterlife of Victorian studies.

Foss and Whalen Co-edit Essay Collection

Professor of English Chris Foss and Associate Professor of English Zach Whalen (together with Jonathan W. Gray, Associate Professor of English at John Jay College/City University of New York) have published a book of essays titled Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives. The book appears as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s Literary Disability Series (series editors David Bolt, Elizabeth J. Donaldson, and Julia Miele Rodas).

This book invites readers to consider both canonical and alternative graphic representations of disability. Some chapters focus on comic superheroes, from lesser-known protagonists like Cyborg and Helen Killer to classics such as Batgirl and Batman; many more explore the amazing range of graphic narratives revolving around disability, covering famous names such as Alison Bechdel and Chris Ware, as well as less familiar artists such as Keiko Tobe and Georgia Webber. The volume also offers a broad spectrum of represented disabilities: amputation, autism, blindness, deafness, depression, Huntington’s, multiple sclerosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, speech impairment, and spinal injury. A number of the essays collected here show how comics continue to implicate themselves in the objectification and marginalization of persons with disabilities, perpetuating stale stereotypes and stigmas. At the same time, others stress how this medium simultaneously offers unique potential for transforming our understanding of disability in truly profound ways.

Foss Presents Paper Celebrating the Work of Claudia Emerson

On Nov. 13, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a paper titled “‘The body’s own account’: Disease, Disability, Death and the Argument for Life in the Poetry of Claudia Emerson” at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association annual convention in Durham, N.C.  The paper celebrates Claudia’s unflinching consideration of disease, disability and death in her most recently published book, Impossible Bottle, a work throughout which Claudia consistently refuses to airbrush the experience of pain and suffering while simultaneously refusing to succumb to despair.

Indeed, Impossible Bottle powerfully testifies to the meaningfulness and the value of all lives touched by disease, disability and death.  Ultimately, Claudia discards any vision of some sort of final disconsolate decline in the face of a dogged disease like cancer, or some sort of defeatist surrender to a death without dignity, and instead gifts us all with a brilliant argument for life that not only envisions but also enacts a truly compelling embodiment of a heartening resilience that remains elastic, fresh and enlightening.

Foss Speaks to Columbia University Seminars

On October 16, Professor of English Chris Foss was a featured speaker at the joint meeting of the Columbia University Seminar on Disability, Culture, and Society and the Columbia University Seminar on Narrative, Health, and Social Justice in New York. Along with fellow co-editor Jonathan W. Gray, he talked about their essay collection Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives, forthcoming in February as one of the first volumes of Palgrave’s new Literary Disability series.

Image (by Georgia Webber) from cover of _Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives_

They also each offered detailed presentations on their individual chapter contributions to the book. As Foss explained, his chapter, “Reading in Pictures: Re-visioning Autism and Literature through the Medium of Manga,” considers the prospect that manga texts provide a more material means through which to communicate the lived experience of autism, perhaps even encourage a more properly “autistic” reading experience. Exploring how the more conceptual and less linear qualities of Keiko Tobe’s multi-volume series With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child (together with the multimodal reading experience they foster) speak to numerous aspects of autistic embodiment, the chapter effects an open-ended critical articulation of autism and manga (in dialogue with both autistic writers and sequential art scholars) characterized by a mapping around of space from which to consider multiple possibilities.

Sorely missed was third co-editor and lead author of the book’s Introduction, Associate Professor of English Zach Whalen, who was unable to attend because he coincidentally had to be in New York that same day for the meeting of the Modern Language Association’s Committee for Information Technology.

Foss Invited to Join Editorial Board

Professor of English Chris Foss recently accepted an invitation to join the editorial board of Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies (Liverpool University Press/Project MUSE).  The journal is one of the two most important venues for scholarly work in the interdisciplinary field of disability studies (together with Disability Studies Quarterly), and it is the key periodical (as its name might imply) for work in literary and cultural disability studies in particular.  Its editorial board consists of 50 internationally recognized cultural disability scholars.