CFP: [18th] Eighteenth-Century Thing Theory (3/22/09; MLA '09)

full name / name of organization: 
Ileana Popa Baird
contact email: 

We invite papers for a special session at the December 2009 MLA
convention in Philadelphia. Please send 250-word abstracts to Ileana
Popa Baird ( by March 22, 2009. All panelists must
be registered MLA members by April 1st, 2009 to be included on the
Philadelphia conference program.


"Hannibal, says Juvenal, did not perish by the javelin or the sword,
the slaughters of Cannae were revenged by a ring. The death of Pope
was imputed by some of his friends to a silver saucepan, in which it
was his delight to eat potted lampreys" (Johnson, Life of Pope).
Everyday life in 18th century is insistently mapped by things, whose
distribution in space, aesthetic and use value are renegotiated
following the unprecedented production of commodities and imperialist
expansion. Things start filling the everyday life and narrative spaces
in a new way, gaining more visual presence, domesticating the spaces
they inhabit or investing them with uncanny traits. Pope's silver
saucepan and Robinson's earthen pot, George II's "fools' cap" and
Dunton's "modern bed," Horner's "china" and Pamela's bundle, Celia's
magnifying glass and Belinda's "Powders, Patches, Bibles,
Billet-doux," Capability Brown's "magic wand" and the trap-doors,
locks or keys of the Gothic imagination are never simple objects, they
are all loaded with moral, political, or religious significances which
account for larger cultural changes at work at the time.

This panel is interested in exploring the intricate narratives told by
things in the long 18th-century, the way things come from being
possessed to possess the subject, how they turn into political and
moral instruments, how they constitute or threaten human subjects, how
they create (or subvert) value and desirability, in short, what they
disclose about the history, society and culture of the time.

Questions? Please contact Ileana Popa Baird at
Department of English
University of Virginia

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Received on Mon Feb 02 2009 - 17:01:07 EST