Literary History and Life Writing: The Development of Nonfiction in the Eighteenth Century

full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies panel
contact email: 

This panel will investigate the emergence of life writing in the eighteenth century and consider the ways in which genres of life writing work in relation to literary history and canon formation. From Colley Cibber's An Apologie for the Life of Colley Cibber to William Mason's The Life and Letters of Thomas Gray to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Confessions to Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets, life writing in the century took many different forms. These and other writers of autobiography and biography used new nonfiction genres to respond to harsh criticism of their work, defend particular genres from criticism, memorialize literary heroes, defend a set of literary genres, and begin to create what later became the literary canon.

This panel welcomes papers interested in exploring these or related topics:
•The development of nonfiction as a response to the decline of traditional genres such as odes, pastorals, and drama
•The consolidation of genres in life writing
•The development of life writing and literary history and the changing literary ideologies that anticipate the Romantic period
•Writers' use of nonfiction genres to preserve traditional genres
•Rhetorical strategies of memorialization of writers and genres
•Writers' collection and archiving of letters for the purpose of life writing prior to or after death

Essays that focus on economic or material culture approaches to the creation of these genres are also welcome. Please send an approximately 250-word abstract to by September 15, 2016.