The Essay: Forms and Transformations

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Markus Oppolzer / University of Salzburg

The Essay has constituted an important prose form from the sixteenth century until the present and constitutes an intriguing field for interdisciplinary study. Applied to such a heterogeneous range of writings as maxims, aphorisms and proverbs, letters, treatises in philosophy and the sciences, as well as criticism and journalism of different kinds, it has eluded clear definition. Not surprisingly, literary and cultural studies have been reluctant to tackle what appears to be a random array of prose texts straddling the boundaries between literature, philosophy and scientific writing, criticism and journalism.
The aim of this conference is to explore this rich field from the 16th century until the present, focussing especially on how shifts and transformations of the essay as well as the uses to which it has been put in particular periods correlate with currents in culture and aesthetics, with emerging sciences and academic disciplines, as well as with socio-political developments. To this end we invite papers dealing with:

- terminological and conceptual aspects across cultures in and outside Europe (mutual influences, developments, uses of the essay for political, academic, etc. purposes)
- theories of the essay
- major examples from Anglophone cultures, though not limited to them
- case studies (mainly dealing with major practitioners)
- interdisciplinary perspectives and transformations of the essay, especially in the respective historical and cultural contexts
- genre-shifts (generic frontiers and overlappings)
- publishing strategies, forms of publication in the course of history

This project is divided into two conferences, one in 2012 and one in 2013. The first will cover the period from the 16th century until the Romantic Age, the second conference, to be announced separately, will cover the 19th century until the present.

If you are interested in this conference, please send a proposal with an abstract and brief biographical information stating your relevant research by 14 June 2012 to:
Professor Sabine Coelsch-Foisner, University of Salzburg, Department of English and American Studies,