Speaker: Jen-chou Liu (Department of English Language and Literature, Soochow University)
Title: "Writing, Body, and the Grafting Metaphor in the Long Eighteenth Century"
Chair: Hsu Li-hsin (English, NCCU)
Time: 1-4 pm Monday 1 May 2023
Venue: Research Building Rm 250203
Webex link: https://nccutw.webex.com/nccutw-en/j.php?MTID=md53f7e9a5c6f92fe31c11b8b88814a8c
After musing on the transience of life and beauty, Shakespeare concludes Sonnet 15 by promising to immortalize his addressee with his poetry: "And all in war with Time for love of you, / As he takes from you, I engraft you new." Shakespeare's grafting metaphor, which compares writing to the horticultural process of cultivating plants, is a common trope for conceptualizing authorship among British authors from the early modern period to the long eighteenth century. The grafting metaphor sheds light on as well as problematizes the relationship between human and textual bodies. By surveying how the grafting metaphor is deployed by various authors in the long eighteenth century, I will discuss how writing triggers anxieties about purity, contagion, and sexuality. As I map the history of the grafting metaphor, I will zero in on a new meaning introduced to grafting in the eighteenth century: smallpox inoculation. After examining how medical and literary discourses cross-pollinate in the eighteenth century, I will suggest ways in which the grafting metaphor evolves and expands to ask new questions about writing, body, and illness.
Jen-chou Liu is assistant professor of English Language and Literature at Soochow University. His research explores how the novel developed in and contributed to Britain’s reading public in the long eighteenth century. His current research project examines how Frances Burney reinvents the grafting and cipher metaphors to define identity as multidimensional, fluid, and pluralistic.