CFP Problematizing the self in eighteenth-century autobiographical writing in English

An international conference organized by the “Enlightenment and modernity” project of the LARCA (Laboratoire de Recherches sur les Cultures Anglophones) at the Université Paris Diderot, November 28-29, 2014.

The considerable quantity of eighteenth-century autobiographical texts in English is now attracting increasing critical attention. Ranging from printed autobiographies by a great variety of writers (travellers, actors, printers, criminals, tricksters, slaves, and clergymen…) to diaries, journals and correspondence, both in manuscript and in print, this is a diverse corpus whose common denominator is the privileged insight which writing about one’s self claims or is claimed to provide. The boundaries of the genre are frequently blurred by its proximity to fictional life-writing. It is often impossible to distinguish ‘true’ from ‘fake’ autobiography, revelation from obfuscation. The self, which such texts purport to recount, is invariably problematic, as if echoing the tenets of sceptical philosophy on the one hand and the constant rooting of individual experience in wider social networks on the other. Never a point of departure and always socially constructed, the autobiographical self nonetheless constitutes the reader’s horizon in these texts whose promises of unveiled truths and secrets are fundamental to the voyeuristic reception they solicit.

This conference will explore the ways in which the self is problematized in autobiographical writing in English in the long eighteenth century. Contributions may focus on issues such as autobiographical accuracy or inaccuracy, the motivations behind autobiographical life-writing, the strategies of revelation and concealment at work, the consistency or inconsistency of the ‘selves’ recounted, the reception, impact and exploitation of autobiographical texts, the public and private faces of autobiographical writing, and the linguistic codes such writing deploys. The languages of the conference will be English and French. Communications will last for 20 minutes.

Scientific committee: John Baker (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Jeffrey Hopes (Université d’Orléans), Robert Mankin (Université Paris Diderot), Marie-Jeanne Rossignol (Université Paris Diderot), Sophie Vasset (Université Paris Diderot).

Proposals of about 300 words, accompanied by a short CV/resume, should be submitted to the scientific committee, by April 30, 2014, at the following address:

Jeffrey Hopes

Université d’OrléansMarie-Jeanne Rossignol
Professor of American Studies
Université Paris Diderot
UFR Etudes Anglophones
Bât Olympe de Gouges
Case 7046 5 rue Thomas Mann
75205 Paris Cedex 13

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