ASECS 2015: “‘His Digressions are the Digressions of a Gentleman’: Anecdote and Tangential Thinking as Rhetorical Devices”

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American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
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Like the legendary English garden, narratives in the long eighteenth-century have long been accused of being unwieldy, unmanageable, and ungoverned. In 1804, the actor J. Moody sent his compliments to the author of the heavily anecdotal Memoirs of Charles Macklin, William Cooke. Moody writes approvingly: “The book has, from the Beginning to the End, the glowing Finger of the Master. His Digressions (by far the best Part of the Work) are the Digressions of a Gentleman.” Present-day readers, however, may become vexed by the constant detours from the immediate subject matter that characterizes many narratives of the period. What draws eighteenth century writers (and readers) towards the anecdotal and/or the digressive? What purposes do these tangents serve in advancing narratives or characterizations in a given work? This panel carries on the work of the ASECS 2014 panel on anecdote, while expanding the field of inquiry to include any kind of textual interruption that might seem to frustrate a narrative’s immediate line of thought.

Proposals are sought from scholars working across the long-eighteenth century. Papers discussing autobiography, biography, the novel, travel narratives, sermons, short stories, or any other combination of genres and/or modes are welcome.

Please send proposals of between 250 and 500 words to by 15 September 2014 (presenters must be current members of ASECS by 1 November 2014).

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