Habit Graduate Conference (Rutgers, New Brunswick): DEADLINE APPROACHING

full name / name of organization: 
Rutgers Long Eighteenth Century Trans-Atlantic Graduate Studies Group
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"HABIT, my good reader, hath so vast a prevalence over the human mind, that there is scarce anything too strange or too strong to be asserted of it."
-- Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews.​

The Rutgers Long Eighteenth Century Trans-Atlantic Graduate Studies Group is seeking papers for a graduate conference March 3-4, 2016 on the topic of habit.

In the age-old opposition of nature and nurture, habit has long played the complex role of "second nature." The rise of natural philosophy (modern science) in the seventeenth century gave "nature" an unprecedented grounding in empirically sensible experience, sorted by scientific experiment into natural constants on the one hand and the variables of partial perception on the other. Drawing a sharp boundary between nature and nurture, divine and human creation, becomes both imperative and increasingly subject to demanding standards of judgment. "Nurture," traditionally conceived as education or art, is subtly refined to encompass internalization through custom, discipline, breeding, familiarization, cultivation, naturalization, ideology, "culture" -- the domain of habituation.

Traditionally, "habit" is also costume, clothing, uniform, dress -- markers of the self that at once contour the body and conceal it. Well-worn by our period, this sense of habit expands to embrace a range of contradictions. It can mark social conformity or individual idiosyncrasy; it can come across as hypocritically affected or appealingly genuine (or even, perhaps, as genuine affectation). Habit becomes characterization, character, a relation between outward appearance and inner essence whose complexity and indeterminacy proclaim the possibility of individual and social change. Advocates of public and private improvement hoped to reorganize the world, or discrete parts of it, by cultivating good habits and reforming bad ones. This was easier said than done, for habit denotes where practice becomes uncannily automatic, potentially resistant to ideological conviction and even to conscious control.

We invite papers on any of these, and other, aspects of habit, including the following topics:

•Fashion in dress, accessories, and beliefs.
•Religious habits, from vestments to liturgy to labor discipline in the calling.
•Habit-forming and addictive commodities and practices.
•Mechanization, automatism, mesmerism, animal magnetism. "Man A Machine."
•Habits of perception, both sensible and virtual.
•From the ritual to the habitual in everyday life.
•The regulation of manners and conduct: campaigns, treatises, advertising.
•Systems of status and class and/or of sex and gender.
•The life history of conventions: literary, artistic, social.
•Customs: traditions, exchanges, and transformations.
•Habitual form in diaries, commonplace books, letters, novels, and other genres.

A keynote address will be delivered by Prof. Jenny Davidson (Columbia).

Papers should take no more than 20 minutes to deliver. Please send abstracts (maximum 300 words) of proposed topics no later than October 15th to rutgers.18c@gmail.com.