Philosophical Questions, Literary Practices: Fiction and Form in the Long Eighteenth Century

Friday, May 6, 2011–Saturday, May 7, 2011
9:30 am PDT

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a conference organized by Sarah Kareem, University of California, Los Angeles, and Emily Hodgson Anderson, University of Southern California


This conference features the work of up and coming scholars working at the intersection of eighteenth-century literature, philosophy, and aesthetics. The plan is to examine literature and philosophy’s formal techniques not merely as receptacles for ideas, but as integral components of the investigations in which both are engaged. Working across genres and disciplines, participants pursue the relationship of literature to philosophy as at once a historically specific eighteenth-century phenomenon—a phenomenon that sheds light on important eighteenth-century cultural contexts—and also as a conceptual model that may anticipate several current critical trends. Possible areas of inquiry therefore include: What are the literary consequences of eighteenth-century ontological debates? What happens when questions of belief are situated within a rhetorical framework (the novel) that itself challenges credulity? How do philosophical considerations of personal identity bear upon ongoing critical discussions about the status of the subject? How might eighteenth-century theories of mind and the passions historicize literary discussions of reader response? Most broadly, this conference asks what it means for philosophical questions to be posed through a range of artistic and textual forms.

Session I: Enlightenment Dualisms
Felicity Nussbaum, University of California, Los Angeles, moderator

Brad Pasanek, University of Virginia
“Two Dualisms”

Sean R. Silver, University of Michigan
“Pope’s Grotto and the Woodward Machine”

Aaron Kunin, Pomona College
“The Failure of Portraiture in Richardson’s Novels”

Session II: Virtual Experience
Helen Deutsch, University of California, Los Angeles, moderator

Sarah Kareem, University of California, Los Angeles
“Flimsy Materials: Skepticism’s Virtual Reality”

Yota Batsaki, Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies
“A Dreary Vacuity: The Economy of Experience in Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas

Emily Hodgson Anderson, University of Southern California
“Believing in Frankenstein”

Session III: Novel Knowledge
Jayne Lewis, University of California, Irvine, moderator

Christina Lupton, University of Michigan
“The Contingencies of Marriage: Luhmann and the Eighteenth-Century Reader”

Robin Valenza, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Listening to the Eighteenth Century and its ECCOs”