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Professor Sandro Jung/Ghent University
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While existing, published research on the almanac as an ephemeral annual publication has focused on a range of important characteristic features, it has not offered a comprehensive account that embeds the form within the changing print cultural contexts that determined its particular uses and material production. Above all, no global account of the almanac has been attempted yet, despite the fact that it was widely popular in Europe from the late Renaissance to the nineteenth century, especially in such formats as the muses’ or comic almanacs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Comparative studies of the form in Europe and North America would yield significant insights into the ways in which different nations adapted it to specific uses and made it a repository of both folk knowledge and fashion that, in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was cross-fertilised by material deriving from the literature and visual imagination of the time. While work on the Stationers’ Company’s monopoly of the almanac in Britain exists, little work has been offered to contextualise this monopoly in view of differing French, German, or American practices. Equally, the emergence of an alternative version of the almanac in the late 1770s (following the lapse of perpetual copyright) in Britain is also beginning to be charted. Almanacs have a more complex history and character than has hitherto been recognised and were not merely poorly printed containers of astrological (and, in North America, farming) lore and disseminated among a mass readership from the seventeenth century onwards; rather, especially in the German territorial states and France (but also in Britain), niche markets for illustrated ephemera and pocket books were transformed them into sophisticated media of middle-class consumption and fashionable status. These publications negotiated a complex spectrum of readers and catered for a large range of consumers from different social (and political) classes, at the same time promoting a cultural narrative that responded to mentality-historical and print culture-related changes.

The purpose of this 2-day conference is to bring together specialists working on any aspect of the almanac and to encourage a global approach to this genre of publication in order to facilitate a large-scope consideration of the almanac from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries. 30-minute research papers are invited by the organiser, and it is planned that revised and expanded versions of the papers (of up to 9000 words, including endnotes notes) will be submitted to a major American university press for publication in the form of the first collaborative collection of essays on the almanac. PLEASE NOTE: a number of competitively awarded bursaries will be available to support conference attendance.

Please submit a 500-word proposal to the organiser, Prof. Dr. Sandro Jung, F.R.Hist.S., by 1 August 2011, at Alternatively, hard-copy proposals can be mailed to the organiser at the following address: Department of Literature (English Studies), Blandijnberg 2, Ghent University, B – 9000 Ghent, Belgium.

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