Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Figures of Disfiguration

Barbara Abrams.

The purpose of this study is to explore the possible links between modern, early modern images and their ancient counterparts. I suggest that there is evidence of a pattern in the artistic reuse of these ancient tales in the 18th century, there are also implications for the way literature is understood today in modern and post modern arenas. We pose the question of whether, taken as a group of artistic expressions, these depictions are indicative of significant social and artistic trends in times of great upheaval. I will address the issues of social roles, and the pursuit of radical revision of roles, in terms of gender, class, nationality, religion, and political authority. My discussion will explore Le Levite d'Ephraim of Rousseau, La Religieuse by Diderot and The Sabines painted by David, as these ancient stories relate to the rape, disfiguration and dismemberment and of women in the early modern context. I will address the question of how this study impacts modern theory through visual and literary analyses of violent images.


Barbara Abrams  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Humanities and Modern Languages
Suffolk University

Barbara Abrams is Assistant Professor of French and Humanities at Suffolk University in Boston MA. She received her doctorate from Columbia University in 2000. Her main field of interest is Eighteenth-Century French literature and specifically the works of Diderot and Rousseau. Her previous work probes the background of the modern concept of marginality laying bare an evolution of thought stemming from the French Enlightenment quest for truth. Her current writing includes studies on Marginality and Gender and Representation in 18th Century French Literature.

  • Disfiguration
  • Violence and Representation
Person as Subject
  • Diderot, Rousseau, David

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)