Gesture in the Eighteenth-Century--prop. due 15 Sept2013; ASECS conf 20-23 Mar 2014

full name / name of organization: 
Miriam L. Wallace
contact email: 

Gesture is a capacious concept—incorporating embodied gesture in speaking in formal situations (courts of law, parliamentary debate, plebian debating or spouting clubs, public oration), in dance from high forms of court or elite social dance to low forms of country or folk dance, and of course on stage in theatrical performance. Gesture (including physiognomy) forms a kind of language of visual arts, from portraiture and history painting to satirical prints. It also includes more figurative concepts of gesture—poetic or musical gesture, gesture in the visual arts. Current work in arts and cognition even links gesture to inter-corporeal recognition. This panel invites considerations of gesture and its function, place, or significance in the long eighteenth century. How was gesture coded and to which audiences was it addressed? What were the dangers of gesture's embodied state—its link to the physical body, even the failed body? How does gesture function differently when it is abstracted as in poetical or musical or painterly gesture? How is gesture tied to nationality, to race, gender, and class? Does gestural communication cross linguistic boundaries or is it not fully translatable? Finally, how do we reconstruct the languages and significances of gesture from the past—what kinds of records and documents are necessary and what do they add to our understanding of the period? Demonstrations of gesture in action--in addition to more conventional presentations (spoken, powerpoint, audio playback)-- are welcomed.