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Horror, Hallucination, Hysteria  

The 2011 topic for Engaging Conversations
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Creativity Committee Invitation to Engaging Conversations


The Creativity Committee: Karen Almeida, Lisa Bain, Hedi BenAicha, Teresa Coffman, Joan Dagle, Patti Nolin, Cindy Padula, Ron Pitt, Joe Zornado.


Engaging Conversations Program


Horror, Hallucination and Hysteria

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

110 Alger Hall and 103, 107, 108

Register at

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch and Plenary Alger 110  

Tulipmania, Exit Panics, Financial Bubbles, and Lady Gaga: What Collective Behavior Theory Has to Say About Hysteria This session will consider what collective behavior theory has to say about mass hysteria by considering four examples: the Dutch tulip mania, exit panics, financial bubbles (in the stock and housing markets), and fan mania. 

Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur, Department of Sociology                                                                                                                       

A Mathematical Model for a Zombie Outbreak, or A Short Corpse in Differential Equations

David Abrahamson, Department of Mathematics                                                                                                                           

In 2009, scientists at the University of Ottawa used modern epidemiological models to study what might happen should a horror-movie outbreak of zombieism actually occur.  The notions of mathematical modeling and differential equations will be outlined for a general audience, with special attention paid to the results of the modeling of the rise of the living dead.  There's good news: we can survive!  Moderator: J. Zornado

12:30 – 1:25 p.m.             

The Attraction of Literary Horror: Monsters, Villains, Ghosts and Vampires —Alger 103                                              

Barbara Schapiro, Maureen Reddy and Sue Abbotson, English Department                                                                        

Each panelist will address horrific elements of popular literature, with an eye to both assessing reader/audience responses and tracing what makes the horrific so fascinating. Moderator, Teresa Coffman

Horror, Hallucination and Hysteria In Crowds and Mobs: Can the Horror Be Prevented or Stopped? —Alger 107

Joan Rollins, Psychology Department    

This presentation focuses on the dramatic and emotional crowds led by charismatic leaders as well as deindividuated, leaderless acquisitive, escape and aggressive mobs. Moderator, Hedi BenAicha

Horror and Perception—Alger 107

Duncan White, Psychology Department

When I think of horror, I think of FDR's quote from his first inaugural address: "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself...". When I think of horror, I think of the fear that has generated that horror and the ignorance that has generated that fear. In this context, I would like to talk about neurological, “attentional,” and perceptual reasons why reality and our perception of it differ. 

Horror or Hysteria: What’s Going On In Education Today?—Alger 108

Gerri August & Carolyn Panofsky, Dept. of Educational Studies; possibly to include several undergraduate teacher candidates and/or graduate students.

In this session, the presenters and the students will discuss received ideas about conditions in urban schools, from media, popular culture, and political discourse, as well as personal experiences in urban school settings. The panelists will discuss whether conditions are those of “horror,” reflect unfounded “hysteria,” or can be made sense of in some other way.

1:30 – 2:25 p.m.               

Screening Horror: Cinema, Horror and the Irrational—Alger 103

Vince Bohlinger, Joan Dagle, Kathryn Kalinak, Bonnie MacDonald

The Film Studies faculty propose a panel that will examine various types of cinematic horror, posing questions such as what scares us on screen, and why? How does film represent horror, hysteria, and the irrational?  Why does the genre never die—or, why does the audience keep coming back?  Moderator, Teresa Coffman

Horror, Human Rights, and the War on Drugs—Alger 107                                                                                                            

Jill Harrison, Department of Sociology                                                                                                                   

Horrendous conditions and inhumane treatment characterize the capture, arrest, and subsequent incarceration of women in Ecuador for their involvement in the international drug trade.  Moderator, Cynthia Padula

Don’t Panic! It May Not Be Toxic—Alger 107                                                                                         

Rebeka Rand Merson, Department of Biology                                                                                                                   

This workshop is designed as an interactive forum on environmental health concerns and approaches to avoid toxic exposures. The intended outcomes are reduced anxiety and fear through education, and improved health by avoiding exposures. We will explore the myriad of potential exposures to environmental toxicants and discuss strategies and resources to reduce risks to human health.                   

Honors Panel—Alger 108

Spencer Hall, English, Quenby Hughes, History

Undergraduate honors students join with faculty in an interdisciplinary examination of the trials and tribulations of research.

2:30 – 3:25 p.m.               

The Horrors of Teaching Writing:  Slaying the Demon—Alger 103

Praveena Gullapalli, Anthropology; Lisa Church, Accounting and Computer Information Systems; Tish Brennan, Library; Scott Mueller, Social Work; Jayne Nightingale, OASIS; Mike Michaud, Rhetoric/English; Becky Caouette, Rhetoric/English.

In this panel, Writing Board Committee members will talk about how teaching writing within our disciplines is, in fact, part of teaching students about our disciplines, despite how horrifying many instructors might find it. Moderator, Becky L. Caouette, English Department

The Terror of Reading and Knowing in Melville’s “Benito Cereno”—Alger 107                    

Zdenko Juskuv, English Department

It is possible to understand “Benito Cereno” as a work that not only scares us or puts doubts in our minds, but also instructs us on how to read (and how not to) in the face of all the uncertainties and shades of gray that we may encounter.  Moderator, Lisa Bain     

Testing, Testing, Testing: The Age of (Urgent) Educational Accountability—Alger 107

Marie A. Lynch, Special Education Department

The objective of this proposed roundtable discussion is to 1) provide a historic context regarding the current focus on “gotcha” accountability in education; 2) explore various implications of this trend especially for those students/families with disabilities; and 3) engage faculty in discussion about whether higher education could/should be a source of reason in creating a meaningful dialogue that encourages bettering outcomes for all kids that contributes to a more balanced view of responsibility rather than accountability.  Moderator, Lisa Bain

Imagining the Worst: The Speculative Tradition on Film – 1968-2010—Alger 108

J. Zornado, English Department

From its beginning film has taken up the question of, “what will the future bring?”  From Metropolis to Modern Times early great film makers have indulged their desire to speculate about the future while ruminating over the present.  The speculative, science fiction filmic tradition from the 1960s to the present is no exception. I will present a brief overview of seminal science fiction films that have “imagined the worst” by depicting the apocalypse, or its aftermath.  I will ingeniously link these films to the historical and cultural moment of their production.   Some facts may be presented. Moderator, Hedi BenAicha

Pickman's Model”: Horror and the Objective Purport of Photographs—Alger 108

Aaron Smuts, Philosophy Department

 Many think that photographs are perceived as more objective than other forms of depiction.  If so, this would explain the power of a common device used in horror movies.  Filmmakers often selectively reveal the monster through a degraded, amateur video recording.  However, I argue that a better explanation is forthcoming.  It is not the objective purport of photographs that accounts for the peculiar power of these scenes, but the power of our imaginations to picture monsters far more terrifying than those that can be readily depicted. Moderator, Hedi BenAicha.

3:30 – 3:40 p.m.                 Break

3:40 – 4:30 p.m.                Plenary Presentation Alger 110                                           

Horror in the Salon”

Samuel Breene,  Department of  Music, Theater, and Dance; Teresa Coffman, Department of Music, Theater and Dance

To end our day there will be a discussion of stage fright and a performance of some particularly unnerving sonatas.



Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man, ca.1485, Accademia, Venice

 "The drawing is based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described[4] by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De Architectura. Vitruvius described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the Classical orders of architecture. Other artists had attempted to depict this concept, with less success. Leonardo's drawing is traditionally named in honor of the architect."--Wikipedia.  One of the earliest forms of proportion is found in the Temple of Solomon and this was based on the cubit, or the measure from the elbow to the extended middle finger.  In ancient times this was about 20 of our modern inches.  For the Greek temple, the system of proportion was based on the width of the column, and this gave the unit of proportion for the ornament of the temple.  The circle in the square, together with the golden section and the Fibonnacci series, were all proportional armatures that influenced the development of architecture into Modernism and particularly Le Corbusier's modules.


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