Call for Papers | Exploring the Mental World of the Country House

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 29, 2021

From the Call for Papers:

Exploring the Mental World of the Country House
20th Annual Historic Houses International Conference
Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, Maynooth University, 9–11 May 2022

Proposals due by 19 November 2021

Country houses are masterpieces of material culture, they are triumphs of architecture, fine and decorative art, and landscape design, but they are also about the history and transmission of ideas.

In varying degrees their occupants (above and below stairs, indoors and outdoors) thought, conversed, read, and responded to their milieu through books, newspapers, as well as other media and forms of knowledge. In recent years country house libraries and archives have steadily revealed more evidence for how people in country houses fashioned themselves and their views of the world. In 2022 the Twentieth Annual Historic Houses Conference will examine the intellectual background to the country house. What is the meaning of all those volumes in bookcases, did they do more than just decorate a room? How were they acquired, read, and put to use?

By what means did elite society exchange ideas, absorb new trends, and engage in wider debate, especially when at home in the country? To what degree was this knowledge valued and displayed in terms of stylish library design, and how did houses preserve, or neglect, their books and other records? How did members of a household entertain or better themselves, what was popular to read with whom —men, women and children? The classics, natural history, literature, genealogy, fiction, and other subjects feature in many country house libraries, and very often a battered, plain copy of a publication will reveal more than the most pristine edition in a lavish ornamental binding. In what ways did books furnish minds as well as interiors?

Beyond the demesne walls how has the world of the country house been perceived and understood in fiction, poetry, drama and, more recently, film? How have these treatments shaped a wider understanding of the country house as a cultural and literary phenomenon? Exploring the Mental World of the Country House will examine these and other related questions, and mark the twentieth anniversary of the Centre; the conference is likely to be a mix of real and online proceedings. Papers on any of the above topics relating to country houses in Ireland, the UK, Europe, or further afield will be considered. Abstracts of no more than 400 words should be sent to Professor Terence Dooley and Professor Christopher Ridgway before 19 November 2021 at the following addresses: terence.a.dooley@mu.ie and cridgway@castlehoward.co.uk.

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