The Public “Humanities” in the Eighteenth Century: Roundtable

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
contact email: 

Defending and explaining the “humanities” and “liberal arts” has become a regular challenge to many of us at institutions public or private. How can turning to the eighteenth century help us to clarify the stakes and to develop more nuanced rather than reactive responses? What were eighteenth-century understandings of the value of the literary, the artistic, the amateur scientific experiment? 

In this era of multiple public spheres and global publics, how was multilingualism or the cultural encounter valued?

How might the eighteenth century help us to articulate why and how we should invest in humanistic approaches? What do we risk losing if we set aside historical ways of viewing the world in favor of an empiricism that prefers contemporaneity, or if we lose a sense of language(s) as not simply transparent windowpanes for conveying meaning but as epistemological tools?

With all its faults, how might attention to eighteenth-century dynamics of debate and sociable conversation offer models for our public practice? How might eighteenth-century modes of knowledge (as models to build upon or to avoid replicating) help us to revive the value of the linguistic, historicist, interpretive, and interpersonal? How do we claim humanistic technologies— the book, the bibliography, the encyclopedia??


Proposals of up to 300 words to either contact:, . A "Roundtable" includes approx. 5-7 speakers for very short remarks aro 8-10 minutes, to leave plentiful time for discussion with the audience in a 90 minute session.