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Call for Papers – Textus Literature

Inventing and Regulating: the Eighteenth Century between Experiment and System

Editors: Lia GUERRA (University of Pavia), Robert DE MARIA, Jr. (Vassar College, USA)
Copy-editor: Lucia BERTI (State University of Milan)

When the Parliament allowed the Licensing Act to lapse in 1695, pre-publication censorship came to an end, and
England gained freedom of the press. Together with the lively political activity of the first decades of the
eighteenth century, this produced an unprecedented growth in the publication of literature concerned with the
res publica. The passionate involvement of men like Defoe or Swift, who not only contributed political pamphlets
or periodicals but also experimented with mock forms and invented personae in their attacks, frequently
exploiting the convention of anonymity, added fuel to the public debate. But many poets, including Pope and
Thomson, also entered the discussions of politics. At the same time Newtonian physics stimulated discussions of
cosmological order as heated as those of social order. New ideas filled the Zeitgeist of the eighteenth century
and seemed to demand the invention of new ways of looking at everything, but at the same time these ideas
generated an equal and opposite need for checking and controlling change. The contrariety between these
forces often played itself out as a contest between private experimentation and public discipline.
The present call for papers aims at pointing to the balance – or the imbalance – achieved in this contest
between public discipline and private experimentation in the culture of the long eighteenth century. This contest
is visible in many of the period’s most productive genres. The emergent novel, for example, was often designed
as a tool for social regulation, while at the same time envisioning social change; empirical science resulted from
commitment to the public, but also from private discoveries (and ventures); women writers sought to renegotiate
their position by invoking Enlightenment ideas of order.
Topics for proposals can include the following:
Invention (world making):
• narrative innovation as challenge to narrative theory
• innovation in poetic form
• the emergent individual in civil society
• the emergent author in print culture
• criminality and social mobility
• new genres and the rise of periodical writing
• the insertion of narrative forms in non-fictional genres
• personal expression and emotion in literature v Neoclassical norms
• the novel: first-person narratives and epistolary novels as foregrounding the new strength of empathy
connected with the new idea of the individual
• the novel as tool for social regulation which also includes moments of highly innovative social
experimentation (see Moll Flanders, with its overarching emphasis on order and morality and its focus on
marginal social networks)
• the emergent presence of animate nature in poetry
• make-believe v the requirements of evidence
• the “murky” condition of translations from other European literatures
• social organization and private innovation in the construction of experimental science: the role of literature
• serious “literature” and the market
• balancing individuality and commitment to empirical science in travel writing
• women discover literature: Reimagining the position of women on the grounds of a disciplinarian ideology (e.
g. Astell and, later, Wollstonecraft)
Regulation (world ordering):
• social control and literature
• policing of authorship (by competing authors, by governments and publishers)
• cataloguing and enumeration
• the mainstream v the margins
• writing (and ordering) London
• writing and ordering Great Britain
• regulating the English language (Johnson)
• alphabetizing the world (encyclopaedias from Chambers Cyclopaedia to the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana)
• regulating the literary canon (Johnson)
• regulating taste (the discourses of aesthetics Beattie, Lord Kames; from Hogarth to Burke to Gilpin)
• channelling the dark sides of the enlightenment into recognizable patterns (gothic, pseudo-sciences)
• rules for poetry
• mapping the world – controlling time and space (sea travels, longitude, watches)
• the theatre: regulating places, plays and players
• censorship and self-censorship
• satire: literary and visual

Deadline for abstracts: September 15, 2018
Acceptance of abstracts will be notified by: October 15, 2018
Deadline for articles: February 1, 2019
Please submit your abstract of approx. 500 words to Lia Guerra (lia.guerra@unipv.it) and Robert De Maria, Jr.

Selected Bibliography:
Adelman, R. and Packham, C. (eds.), Political Economy, Literature & the Formation of Knowledge, 1720-1850,
Routledge, 2018.
Alff, D., The Wreckage of Intentions: Projects in British Culture, 1660-1730, Penn, 2017.
Bailes, M., Questioning Nature: British Women’s Scientific Writing and Literary Originality; 1750-1830, University
of Virginia Press, 2017.
Chico, T., The Experimental Imagination: Literary Knowledge and Science in the British Enlightenment, Stanford
University Press, 2018.
Cook, D. and Saeger, N. (eds.), The Afterlives of Eighteenth-Century Fiction, CUP, 2015.
DeMaria Jr, R., British Literature 1640-1789: Keywords, Wiley Blackwell, 2018.
DiPlacidi, J. and Leydecker, K. (eds.), After Marriage in the Long Eighteenth Century: Literature, Law and Society,
Palgrave, 2017.
Douglas. A., Work in Hand: Script, Print, and Writing, 1690-1840, Oxford, 2017.
Fennetaux, A., Junqua, A. and Vasset, S. (eds.), The Afterlife of Used Things: Recycling in the Long Eighteenth
Century, Routledge, 2014.
Lupton, C., Knowing Books: The Consciousness of Mediation in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Penn, 2011.
O’Loughlin, K., Women, Writing, and Travel in the Eighteenth Century, CUP, 2018.
Steinby, L and Mäkikalli, A. (eds.), Narrative Concepts in the Study of Eighteenth-Century Literature, Amsterdam
University Press, 2017.
Thompson, H., Fictional Matter: Empiricism, Corpuscles, and the Novel, Penn, 2017.