Energy Humanities and the Eighteenth Century

deadline for submissions: 
October 24, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
ASECS: American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
contact email: 

It is common for studies in the Energy Humanities to identify the “late eighteenth century” as a backstory to the cultures, industries, and sciences of coal that emerged in the nineteenth century. This panel is interested in questioning that periodization with more complex genealogies or alternate imaginaries of energy throughout the eighteenth century.

Where and by what names does energy operate in the eighteenth-century archive? How can paradigms of the Energy Humanities modify scholarship on this century, and vice-versa? Can we detect the interconnectedness of energy systems structuring discourses of empire and global commerce, or notions of embodied energy underpinning the labor theories of value that vied with mercantilism? What new conceptualizations of energy could be derived from vibrant topics in eighteenth century studies including:

  • object-oriented ontologies/thing theory
  • gothic enchantment of matter
  • embodied effusions of passions and sentiment
  • orientalist fascination with non-western spiritualism
  • epistolary form’s circuiting of affect through objects
  • scientific experimentation that pressed the boundaries of mechanical physics
  • political-economic models for organizing the vital force of laboring populations.

David AP Womble, University of Houston,