Open Digital Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2020

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on May 20, 2020

ODSECS presents live seminars with Q&A opportunities (advance registration required for participation). Recordings remain available after the fact. I would particularly note Freya Gowrley’s talk in July on “Anna Seward and the Poetics of Exchange,” with registration details here. CH

Open Digital Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies
Launched April 2020, ongoing

The Open Digital Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies brings together researchers in eighteenth-century literature and culture from across the globe for conversation, debate, and sociability. It aims to make the best new research available to the widest possible audience, and to facilitate a diverse and inclusive research culture.

ODSECS seminars take place live and are also recorded to ensure maximum accessibility. In each seminar, a twenty-minute paper delivered by an expert speaker is followed by a 20- to 30-minute question and answer session. All participants are welcome to contribute to the Q&A using a microphone or the typed chat function.

ODSECS is convened by Dr Rebecca Bullard, Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Reading, UK. Please send enquiries about ODSECS to r.bullard@reading.ac.uk.

Seminar 1: Sophie Coulombeau (University of York), Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers
April 2020

In April 2020, a group of researchers came together to experiment with the format for ODSECS. Dr Sophie Coulombeau gave a wonderful paper about the research project, ‘Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers’. On this occasion, only the talk was recorded, not the question and answer session that followed it.

Seminar 2: Eugenia Zuroski (McMaster University), Haywood’s Fascinum
Monday, 18 May 2020, 4.00pm (UK time)

Eliza Haywood’s The Adventures of Eovaai is a curiously elaborate joke: an intricate oriental romance as vehicle for a relatively straightforward satire of Robert Walpole and his political ascendance. As Ros Ballaster has observed, the tale contains “anarchic and perverse comic energies” that tend to overwhelm, even counteract, the story’s political orientations. In this paper, I consider how, in its more anarchic and perverse moments, Eovaai theorizes “unseriousness” as an epistemological and political approach to the world—an unexpected utopian promise in the prospect of being “carried away” by literature’s most fascinating and least plausible objects. Tracing Haywood’s engagement with the Roman fascinum, I show the unexpected conceptual heights a well-deployed penis joke might take us.

Seminar 3: Nicholas Seager (Keele University), ‘The Celebrated Daniel De Foe’: The Reception and Publication History of Defoe’s Non-Fiction
Wednesday 17 June 2020, 4.00pm (UK time)

This paper examines unexplored aspects of Daniel Defoe’s (1660–1731) posthumous publication history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It challenges prevalent understandings of his reception, as critics have assumed that “Defoe seems to have been little read or remembered in the years after his death,” and that until the twentieth century he was remembered as a “slapdash journalistic hack.” As well as trying to qualify or dispel such views, the paper argues that Defoe’s extensive publication history in numerous non-fiction genres—history, travel-book, conduct writing, journalism, polemical pamphlets, religious treatises, and more—reveals some ways in which generic change occurred across the period. Defoe’s non-fiction was subjected to acts of re-publication that amount to adaptation and appropriation, processes more commonly applied to Defoe’s fiction. Finally, the paper shows how the re-publication of Defoe’s non-fiction repeatedly engaged with British political, social, and economic history, from the Forty-Five to the French Revolution and beyond.

Seminar 4: Freya Gowrley (University of Derby), Anna Seward and the Poetics of Exchange: Portraiture, Poetry, and Gift Culture
Wednesday, 15 July 2020, 4.00pm (UK time)

This paper unpacks the complex networks of emotional, artistic, and poetic exchange that surrounded a highly emotional portrait-object: a printed version of George Romney’s painting Serena given to Lady Eleanor Butler (1739–1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755–1831)—the so-called ‘Ladies of Llangollen’—by the poet Anna Seward (1742–1809). Seward identified the image as a ‘perfect similitude’ of her deceased step-sister Honora Sneyd, so much so that the print played an active role in Seward’s commemoration of their lost friendship. Like Butler and Ponsonby’s own infamous ‘romantic friendship’, Seward and Sneyd enjoyed an intensely close and deeply affectionate relationship that flouted social norms, with both Sneyd’s marriage to Richard Edgeworth in 1751, and her eventual death in 1780, devastating the poet.

Discussing both Seward’s copy of the print, as well as Butler and Ponsonby’s facsimile, this paper places the image within two contexts: firstly, in relation to Seward’s volume of poetry, Llangollen Vale with Other Poems (1796), a sentimentalising series of verses dedicated to Seward’s intimate relationships with Butler, Ponsonby, and Sneyd; and secondly, within an intricate display of gifted portraits at Plas Newydd, Butler and Ponsonby’s home at Llangollen in Wales. Using methodologies from the history of the emotions, material culture and literary studies, and art history it will demonstrate the image’s deep embedment within Seward’s emotional and creative consciousness: on the one hand, allowing Seward to actively ruminate and comment upon her close connections with Sneyd, Butler, and Ponsonby; and on the other, functioning within a dynamic web of literary, material, and loving gestures enacted between Seward and her friends. In so doing, the paper will highlight the vibrant intermedial lives of this eighteenth-century print, and the urgency of an interdisciplinary approach to the art of this period.

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