Call for Papers: The Unconscious

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 14, 2010

Tenth Annual Workshop: The Eighteenth Century and the Unconscious
Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Indiana University Bloomington, 11-13 May 2011

Applications due by 7 January 2011

Eighteenth-century studies in many ways emerged from and remains beholden to “the Enlightenment”-a category often understood in terms of rationality, reason, and the exercise of conscious decision making. Reason may be celebrated (see Jonathan Israel) or it may be critiqued (see Horkheimer and Adorno): in either case, it remains central to most accounts of the period. Yet the eighteenth century was also the era of  empirical psychology, sentimentalism’s triumph, and the emergence of what we now call Romanticism. It may even be the era of the discovery or the invention of the unconscious (Sloterdijk). By focusing on “unconscious” eighteenth centuries, this workshop therefore asks participants to reconsider the relation of reason to un-reason and of theory to historically inclined analyses.

Any mention of the unconscious immediately invites psychoanalytic interpretation. Yet the framework and vocabulary of psychoanalysis were unknown to eighteenth-century protagonists. For the purposes of this workshop, we therefore propose a broad starting definition of the unconscious as that which is unavailable to consciousness: it may be simply invisible or it may be actively produced by some “invisibilizing” mechanism, such as repression, suppression, or forgetting. It may operate within an individual or text, or it may function throughout a culture; its effects may be social, political, legal, literary, pedagogical, or psychological. There may be structurally different forms of unavailability. While the unconscious and its effects may be analyzed in terms derived from Freud, they do not need to be-indeed, it is our hope that this workshop will provoke participants to rethink both their understandings of the eighteenth century and their accounts of conscious and unconscious processes.

We invite participants to be explicit about their methodological choices. Papers might address one or all of the following concerns:

  1. Was there an unconscious according to eighteenth-century protagonists; if so, how did it emerge and what functions did it serve?
  2. Can we historicize a concept or structure such as the unconscious? What would be gained from doing so? What would be lost?
  3. If there is something “eighteenth-century” about current theories of the unconscious, need their origins be found in this period, broadly construed?
  4. To what extent do eighteenth-century examples challenge or complicate common models of unconscious life? With its focus on oedipal dramas within the nuclear family has psychoanalysis itself blinded us to the effect of extended families, the importance of social modes of remembering and forgetting, and the emotional work of religious affiliation?

The workshop format will consist of focused discussion of four to six papers a day, amid socializing and refreshment. The workshop will draw both on the wide community of eighteenth-century scholars and on those working in this field at Indiana University-Bloomington. The workshop will cover most expenses of those scholars chosen to present their work: accommodations, travel (up to a certain limit), and most meals. We are asking for applications to be sent to us by Friday, January 7, 2011. The application consists of a two-page description of the proposed paper as well as a current brief CV (no longer than three pages). Please email or send your application to Dr. Barbara Truesdell, 400 North Sunrise Drive, Weatherly Hall North, Room 122, Bloomington, IN 47405, Telephone 812/855-2856, voltaire@indiana.edu. Papers will be selected by an interdisciplinary committee. All submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail within a fortnight: if you have not received an acknowledgment by the January 7th application deadline, please contact Barbara Truesdell or Mary Favret. We will make final decisions on participants in early February. Further information can be found on our website, or you can find us on Facebook. For additional details and queries, please contact the director of the Center, Mary Favret, Department of English, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN  47405, favretm@indiana.edu.

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