John Thelwall at 250: Medicine, Literature, and Reform in London, ca. 1764-1834 (July 25-27, 2014)

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The John Thelwall Society

John Thelwall at 250: Medicine, Literature, and Reform in London, ca. 1764-1834 (July 25-27, 2014)

The inaugural John Thelwall Society conference
University of Notre Dame London Centre
1 Suffolk Street, London, England
July 25-27, 2014

Keynote speakers: Sharon Ruston (Professor of English, Lancaster University), Penelope J. Corfield (Emeritus Professor of History, Royal Holloway, University of London), and Sir Geoffrey Bindman, QC.

To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth in London of the reformer and polymath John Thelwall (1764-1832), we invite papers and panel proposals on any aspect of his diverse career, or on the medical, literary, or political life of London in his time. We are particularly interested in generating further attention to the interrelations among medical science, literature, and political culture -- a nexus to which Thelwall greatly contributed. An outspoken advocate of democratic reform and prolific poet, novelist, dramatist, journalist, and elocutionist, Thelwall was also a natural philosopher who, a generation before John Keats, attended medical lectures and operations at the London hospitals and presented innovative papers on vitality and cognition.

Contributions are welcome from all disciplines and need not focus expressly on Thelwall. Topics might include (but are not limited to):
* London culture, from the theatres to the debating societies to the taverns;
* Radicalism and/or Westminster politics;
* Medical culture, including the medico-political circles of Guy's and St. Thomas's hospitals, and the Royal Humane Society;
* Debates over quackery, the health of the poor, the politics of scientific "performance," and the dissection of criminal corpses;
* Theories of life; the "vitality debates" of the 1790s and 1810s; emergent sciences of the mind and brain;
* Thelwall's early London connections and activities (in the law, theatre, debating, journalism, medicine, poetry, politics);
* Thelwall's life and career in London (including his political activism, imprisonment and treason trial, literature, journalism, elocutionary theory and practice).

The conference will also celebrate the formation of the John Thelwall Society and the acquisition by the University of Notre Dame of eight rediscovered letters from Thelwall to fellow reformer Thomas Hardy. Other highlights will include:
* A visit to the Old Operating Theatre at Guy's Hospital, with reception;
* A 250th birthday banquet;
* A pre-conference visit to the site of Thelwall's elocutionary institute in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the site proposed for an English Heritage "Blue Plaque" in his honour;
* A pre-conference excursion in the footsteps of Thelwall's Peripatetic, led by Judith Thompson (Professor of English, Dalhousie University).

Please submit titles and abstracts of 250-300 words to by February 1, 2014. Proposers can expect to hear whether their abstract has been accepted by March 2014 and registration will open soon afterwards. Graduate students are invited to apply for (limited) fee-waiver and travel bursaries by including a brief explanation (250-500 words) of how their research relates to the conference themes.

Questions may be directed to the organizers, Yasmin Solomonescu (University of Notre Dame) at and Gordon Bottomley (Lancaster University) at .

The conference is made possible through the generosity of the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Letters, Henkels Lecture Series; Nanovic Institute for European Studies; Department of English; John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values; and History and Philosophy of Science Graduate Program; as well as the British Association for Romantic Studies.