ASECS 2022 Roundtable: Talking with the Dead (and the Living): Dialogues des morts et des vivants in Enlightenment-Era France

deadline for submissions: 
September 17, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies / Panel Organizer Charlee Bezilla

Call for Papers: Roundtable at ASECS 2022, Talking with the Dead (and the Living): Dialogues des morts et des vivants in Enlightenment-Era France (Roundtable)

Where: 52nd ASECS Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD

When: March 31 – April 2, 2022

Deadline for abstract submissions: September 17, 2021 

Roundtable Organizer: Charlee Bezilla, Northern Virginia Community College, 

Throughout the long eighteenth century in France, authors including Fontenelle, Fréret, Crébillon fils, Diderot, and Delisle de Sales put into conversation deceased (and sometimes long dead) historical figures and characters and occasionally personages from their own time. We find in La Philosophie de la nature of Delisle de Sales, for example, dialogues between Rousseau’s Wolmar from La Nouvelle Héloïse and Socrates, between Descartes and Newton, Socrates and Pascal, Leibniz and Charles XII. The characters of Diderot’s Le Rêve de d’Alembert are named after himself and his friends, but he originally conceived it as a dialogue between Leucippus, Democritus, and Hippocrates. In making such characters speak posthumously and/or with living or fictional persons, writers engaged in varied literary, philosophical, political, and scientific debates. This roundtable seeks to explore how the repurposing and recycling of characters (both from anterior periods and the eighteenth century) complements the goals of the dialogue philosophique or scientifique. To what purposes do Enlightenment-era authors put these characters? What aesthetic, philosophical, political, or moral perspectives do they make possible? What can they reveal about the importance of vraisemblance as a literary tool (or prescription)? In the decades following the polemics of the querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, how does repackaging this popular genre from the Classical period serve authors’ agendas? What issues of “ownership” and originality are implicated in the coopting of historical figures and other authors’ characters? Might thinking of these dialogues as “fan-fictions” be useful?

Submissions from graduate students and early career scholars are welcome. Please email a 250-word abstract in English or French to Charlee Bezilla,