Talking About Early Modern Things: RSA Panel CFP

full name / name of organization: 
Helen Smith and Jessica Keating

What is the place of language after the 'material turn'? This panel responds to and challenges the recent tendency to prioritise 'the objects themselves' over the alleged insubstantiality of the textual record, turning attention instead to the relationships between early modern words and early modern objects. The panel aims to explore and develop new methodologies for the study of objects, and to address in explicit terms the ways in which the tools and techniques of literary study can be repurposed to talk in fruitful ways about early modern objects.

How does language, whether literary or descriptive, formal or colloquial, function to direct our attention to objects, and how do things impact upon the turns and twists of language? What kinds of agency, response, or presence are imagined or revealed in the deployment of rhetorical and logical tropes, or the intricacies of grammar and syntax? What are the ways in which language materialises objects in particular settings, and how do things themselves participate in acts of speech, writing or printing?

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, the material text and its interactions with objects, in letters, catalogues, and labels, on stage or in the visual realm; the strategies and techniques of mimesis; and language as itself a material category.

Please send 250-word proposals and a one-page CV to Jessica Keating ( and Helen Smith ( by June 8th. We are happy to receive preliminary inquiries and ideas.