CFP: [18th] Wild Minds: Mental Restlessness in Eighteenth-Century Literature (ASECS, 3/27-3/30/08; 09/15/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Natalie Phillips
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In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes claims that some men are born with minds that
move too quickly (1648). Supposedly, such swift-minded men are in danger of
being “snatched from their purpose by everything that comes in their
thought, into so many and so long digressions and parentheses that they
utterly lose themselves.” Almost a century later, however, David Hume
claims that rapid-moving thoughts are an essential part of human nature:
men are “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which
succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity; and are in a perpetual
flux and movement.” What, then, does it mean to think “too fast” in the
eighteenth century? How does the Enlightenment address the impetuous
movement of hasty minds?

This session will bring together scholars from different disciplinary
backgrounds to analyze representations of mental restlessness in the long
eighteenth century. The seminar will feature three or four papers to
discuss any of the following questions: How do philosophical, scientific,
and literary texts of the eighteenth-century explain and describe mental
restlessness? What formal techniques, or tropes, do they use to depict the
rapid speed, or pace, of a character’s thoughts? How do historical
discussions of wit, imagination, and madness influence the presentation of
the quick-wandering mind?

Please send 250 word proposals for papers of 15-20 minutes to Natalie
Phillips at by September 15th. For more information, see

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Received on Fri Aug 17 2007 - 15:09:13 EDT