Children of the Enlightenment
Conference: ASECS 2017 (Minneapolis, MN)
Panel Title: Children of the Enlightenment
Our roundtable puts the literatures of the eighteenth century and the Romantic period into dialogue, asking how the child figures as both subject and trope in these literatures and how Romantic writers understood their relationships to Enlightenment ideas. The word “children” is meant both literally and figuratively, referring both to a community based on age and intellectual capacity that was becoming increasingly central to British cultural consciousness and to a genealogical notion of influence and descent. How do writers such as Bunyan, Defoe, Wordsworth, and Blake understand children not only as a category of persons, but as readers and writers? How can we understand certain writers as children of Enlightenment thought?
The long eighteenth century saw a shift from the idea that people of all ages were equally marked by original sin to the Victorian “cult of the child” that privileged children as a distinct category. Our roundtable considers the ambiguous interim between these two extremes. We invite proposals for papers investigating the meaning and role of childhood in the long eighteenth century. Possible topics include: philosophical discussions of childhood and innocence; texts that are targeted specifically at children; children as writers, readers, or literary characters; and discussions of genealogical descent and intellectual affinity.