Call for Papers | Posterity in France, 1650–1800

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on August 23, 2014

From the Voltaire Foundation’s Facebook page, via Early Modern Architecture:

Posterity in France, 1650–1800
University of Cambridge, 19 March 2015

Proposals due by 6 October 2014

Organised by Jessica Goodman (Cambridge) and Russell Goulbourne (King’s College London)

‘La postérité pour le philosophe, c’est l’autre monde de l’homme religieux’.

So writes Diderot to the sculptor Etienne Falconet in early 1766. Their long correspondence on the subject of posterity is just one response to a topic that pervades cultural production in eighteenth-century France: from the Encyclopédie’s aim to convey to the future not only human knowledge but also the names of its creators, through Rousseau’s desire to control his posthumous image in his Confessions, to the celebration of the first literary centenaries, which gave contemporary writers cause to think on their own legacies.

The desire to be remembered was nothing new in the period: as far back as Horace’s claim in 23BC that ‘I shall not wholly die’, writers and artists had been imagining the afterlife that would be available to them through their works. This one-day conference, though, sets out to investigate the specificity of the idea of future glory for French cultural producers in the period 1650–1800, when there seems to be a suggestive confluence of social and intellectual changes: the growth of the public sphere, a new concept of an exemplary ‘grand homme’ focusing on moral and intellectual achievement rather than high birth or military might, a context of declining patronage and de-institutionalisation, and an increasing secularism, with the attendant questions about the afterlife of the soul.

Topics to be addressed could include:
• The specific features of the concept of posterity developed in the period
• How a consciousness of posterity affects how and what people write—both as individuals and in terms of broader cultural trends
• How the lure of posterity relates to an individual’s social self-positioning in life
• Whether writers and artists hold a particularly privileged position in the quest to be remembered
• The extent to which new cultures of mourning and commemoration influence or are influenced by contemporary writings on posterity
• The relationship between posterity and the religious afterlife in the thought of the period

Papers may be given in English or French and should last 20 minutes. Abstracts of 200–300 words should be sent to earlymodernposterity@gmail.com by Monday 6 October 2014. Questions may also be addressed to the organisers at this address. Contributions from early-career scholars and postgraduates are particularly welcome.