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Nineteenth-Century Philanthropy: Poverty, Giving, and the Culture of Altruism
full name / name of organization:
Frank Christianson and Leslee Thorne-Murphy/Brigham Young University
Given the pervasive nature of private philanthropy during the long nineteenth century, its influence on the basic institutions of society was inescapable. In the uneven march toward the modern welfare state, fluctuating government policy dictated the scope of the public sector and the space for private volunteerism, and philanthropists became increasingly effective at shaping policy debates. With the growth of charitable organizations came the development of presumably scientific and disinterested methods of coordinating and systematizing relief, often in order to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor. Examining the discourse involved in these methods illuminates the complex motives behind charity work and the ways in which nineteenth-century philanthropy worked hand-in-hand with the other institutions of its day.
Literature of the period both reflected these issues and sought to influence debates over the nature and function of philanthropy. While some social reform writers adopted philanthropy as the figure for their own artistic endeavors, others militated against its rising influence—Carlyle characterized the new phenomenon of “philanthropology” as a “sugary, disastrous jargon.” Many writers, understanding its polarizing energy, made it a central theme of their works.
We propose a collection of essays addressing the function of philanthropy in British and American writing of the long nineteenth century. Essays should explore the multi-faceted nature of philanthropic discourse and try to account for its prominent and dynamic role in the literature of the period.
Possible topics include:
Please send a 500-word proposal and 1-page vita by August 10th, 2012 to:
Essay drafts (7-10,000 words) will be due by August 1st, 2013.