The Godwinian Moment: Revolutionary Revisions of Enlightenment

Friday, May 4, 2007–Saturday, May 5, 2007
All Day

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a conference organized by Robert Maniquis, University of California, Los Angeles, and Victoria Myers, Pepperdine University

Because of the ground-breaking studies of the 1980s, William Godwin’s Enquiry concerning Political Justice has become of one the most important texts for charting transitions and continuities between the British Enlightenment and the Romantic era. Recent scholars have taken the Enquiry beyond the task of delineating Godwin’s political-philosophical system—beyond proving that he indeed had a rational system—and have begun to show how his later texts rethought an Enlightenment project that the Enquiry had already reconfigured. Current work has begun more detailed analysis of Godwin’s entire fictional oeuvre, as well as more careful interpretation and evaluation of his educational tracts, histories, dramas, and writings for children. Now the object of scholars equipped with a variety of theoretical, critical, and textual practices, Godwin is emerging a different and even richer index to the intellectual changes rung upon the British Enlightenment.

The current publishing environment has been hospitable to this extension of Godwin studies. Besides bringing Godwin’s various works back into print, scholars (including participants in the conference) are now editing both his diaries and his letters. This effort has continued to show how central Godwin is to understanding the transformations of Enlightenment through eighteenth-century Dissent and to picturing the various elements in London publishing and coterie culture; it also promises to penetrate below the stereotyped Godwinian surface, bringing into play details of his private community on the one hand and his active outreach beyond England on the other hand, thus enriching our sense of eighteenth-century family and cosmopolis. The conference emphasizes transitions from eighteenth-century styles of thought to new categories and configurations triggered by the challenge of revolution and reaction. Participants uncover various connections between Godwin’s work and concerns about marriage, family, and childhood; Rousseauian vs. dissenting theories of education; the advent of the historical novel; economic tropes and realities; and transformations of rhetoric and oratory.

Moderator: Frederick Burwick, University of California, Los Angeles

Gary Handwerk, University of Washington
“‘Awakening the Mind’: William Godwin on Education”

Robert Anderson, Oakland University
“Godwin Disguised: Politics in the Juvenile Library”

Moderator: Donald G. Marshall, Pepperdine University

Timothy Webb, University of Bristol
“‘Assassins of Truth’: William Godwin and the Temptations of Legal Oratory”

Victoria Myers, Pepperdine University
“History and Oratory: Godwin’s Biography of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham”

Moderator: Beth Lau, California State University, Long Beach

Tilottama Rajan, University of Western Ontario
“The Disfiguring of Enlightenment: War, Trauma and the Historical Novel in Godwin’s Mandeville

Kenneth W. Graham, University of Guelph
“Reviewing and Ideological Change: Two Moments in the Godwin-Malthus Contention”

Moderator: Anne Mellor, Univeristy of California, Los Angeles

Julie A. Carlson, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Heavy Drama”

Robert Maniquis, University of California, Los Angeles
“Grand Incongruities: Godwin, Calvinism, and the Phantom Self”