Of Entrepreneurial Castaways and Overflowing Passions: 300 Years of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Haywood's Love in Excess
Of Entrepreneurial Castaways and Overflowing Passions:
300 Years of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719)
and Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess (1719)
An International Conference
April, 2019 (dates to be confirmed)
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM
1719 might well be considered as an annus mirabilis for the eighteenth-century British novel. On the 25th of April, hundreds of copies of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, mariner of York […] Written by Himself went from crowding the shelves of William Taylor’s bookshop on Pater-Noster-Row to inhabiting the chairs, closets, libraries, drawing rooms, kitchens, and garrets of the first readers of the exploits of literature’s most famous castaway. Unbeknownst to them, in frantically reading, discussing, and parodying Crusoe’s adventures, they were laying the foundation stones of the Robinsonian cult, one of the most remarkable and enduring cultural phenomena of the western tradition. That very same year, the first volume of yet another sales hit saw the dim light of a foggy English day: Love in Excess; or the Fatal Enquiry. Its author none other than Eliza Haywood; actress, playwright, essayist, and writer of various forms of conduct literature. The success formula of this three-part novel is deceptively simple: a sequence of intrigues among moderately wealthy couples, jam-packed with uncontained desire and calamity. Behind the raciness, however, lurk crucial debates about class and gender roles (laden with double standards), as well as individual afflictions and trials of the mind in a society fixated on the duality between reason and passion.
That both Haywood and Defoe are remembered in our own time as novelists—after having forayed into that genre almost incidentally—is a remarkable piece of lucky irony, one worth remembering and scrutinizing. While the year of publication of their debut novel seems to bring Defoe and Haywood together, their places in the canon appear almost antithetical. Defoe, who wrote Crusoe in his sixties and in his own lifetime was better known for his conduct manuals and political satires, came to be considered as the “father of the English novel”—a title that is now being contested as patriarchal and reductive. Haywood, for her part, was better known for her novels almost all of her life—hence her appellation of “Mrs. Novel”, a backhanded honorary title that her sometimes friend and sometimes rival Henry Fielding coined for her in 1731. Until recent decades, however, critics had nearly forgotten about her and her substantial contributions to that crucial eighteenth-century genre.
In pairing these authors together, this conference seeks to lay the ground for thinking about the contents of their works, their discursive strategies, their cultural legacies, and the vagaries of any canon.
Keynote speaker: Sophie Gee (Princeton University)
This event invites proposals for papers (+/- 20 min.), in English or Spanish. Presentations in less orthodox formats (e.g. lesson plans, digital resources) are also welcome.
Proposals for papers and panels should be sent to the organizers with abstracts of around 250 words at:email@example.com
The following is a list of suggested topics:
Robinsonades (literary and in film)
- Human passions (in a rational era)
- The island as leit motif
- Theatrical echoes in the novel
- Robinson Crusoe, Marx y and the spirit of capitalism
- Paradoxes of (dis)obedience
- Clever disguises, treacherous biologies
- Subverting romantic literature before Austen: genders and genres