CFP: Literature, Aesthetics and Philosophies of History, 1860-1940 (UK) (11/30/06; 1/18/07-1/19/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Daniel Thomas Moore
contact email:

Literature, Aesthetics and Philosophies of History, 1860-1940

The University of Birmingham

To be held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Birmingham

18th-19th January 2007

                  In his seminal Metahistory (1973), Hayden White
describes a later-nineteenth century separation between the realms of
‘true’ history and ‘philosophical’ history and a renewed interest in
the implicit assumptions inherent within constructions of the past. The
resultant ‘crisis in historicism,’ particularly within German
historiographical and philosophical thought, had important consequences
for the claims made to knowledge, truth and transparency by the
historian. The aesthetic correlatives of this crisis are to be found
throughout the Europe of the time – literature, criticism and art that
spans the period, from Baudelaire and Pater through to Benjamin and
Heidegger, from Impressionism to Surrealism, concerns itself not only
with knowledge per se, but how understanding of the past has profound
implications for living within the present.

        This conference starts with the premise that the writers, artists and
critics of the later-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries were
working with a well-defined historical sense. Many were historians,
historicists, antiquarians and philosophers of history, consistently
engaging with models of history and historical process, and
interrogating the past and its construction in the present in cogent
and philosophically-assured ways. It also begins by saying that
comparisons of the literature and the visual arts with the
historiography and the philosophy of history of the period have so far
been under-theorised, due at least in part to the perceived discordance
of the practices employed by these different disciplines and the desire
to read the arts and literatures of Aestheticism, Decadence and
Modernism through their own, often acute, anti-historicism. As a
result, the depth of the connection remains unplumbed. There remain
gaps, holes and silences: How precisely is the past and historical
modelling used in the text and image of the period? What attempts are
there at ‘modernist’ or ‘aestheticist’ history and historiography and
how do these attempts ground themselves epistemologically? How might
the methods of our own present thinking help us in re-conceptualising
more fruitfully the relationships between the art and philosophy of
history within this period?

        We are seeking academics and postgraduates working within literary
studies, history and the philosophy of history or in art and cultural
history, to contribute to an interdisciplinary forum on these and any
other points of crossover between literature, art, history and
historiography and to challenge some of the ways in which these
disciplines have conceptualised the period 1860-1940. The proceedings
of this conference will be published as an appendix to a special issue
of the e-journal Modernist Cultures (, devoted
to the topic of Literature, Art, Historiography and the Philosophy of
History, to be published in December 2007.

        Papers should be 15-20 minutes long. For further details, or to submit
a proposal of between 200-300 words, contact Daniel Moore at The deadline for proposals is 30th November

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Received on Wed Jul 12 2006 - 16:31:24 EDT

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