Category Archives: conferences

What Matters in Humanities Education

Since we like to talk about teaching here too, readers might be interested in my report on the Teagle Foundation‘s convening on “What Works and What Matters in Student Learning.” The conference specifically addressed the humanities. This link will take you to the web page for the event; scroll down a bit for reports by me and by Ashley Finley of AAC&U. I welcome comments and feedback on what you think matters.

asecs 2013 cfp: religious toleration

After the exchanges we had last spring about alternative formats for ASECS presentations, I was pleased to see this CFP by Laura Stevens and Patrick Mello for their proposed Religious Toleration panel at ASECS 2013:

The panel topic is “Religious Toleration,” (#216 on the CFP) and we are structuring it as a “closed colloquium.” Basically, instead of having a few scholars present their work to an audience, we want to gather a group of 10-12 scholars working on this topic to have a highly focused conversation, perhaps leading to collaborative projects and ongoing dialogue. Participants will submit short position papers about three weeks before the conference and arrive having read each other’s papers. There probably will also be some preliminary communications over email before the conference.

This is a format that other academic societies such as the Modernist Studies Association have been using for a while, and we thought we would try it out for ASECS. If it worked well for ASECS, our hope was that other members might propose occasional colloquia on other topics in future years. The consensus in these other organizations seems to be that the conversational dynamic of these sessions becomes disrupted when there are more than a very few non-participant observers. We therefore are closing this session to those who are not participating in it and have not done all the reading beforehand. We can include up to two observers (if, for example, there are ASECS members who would like to see how the format works), but we ask that you contact us about this before the conference. Observers also are required to stay for the entire session, so that their arrival and departure don’t disrupt the discussion.

I’m interested to see how this works, because I’ve seen more and more workshop-style formats at other conferences, and I think this could be hugely beneficial for those doing research in this area.  It could become a kind of conference-within-a-conference, or what in pedagogy we call a “fishbowl.”  This has the potential to open up new and unaccustomed forms of dialogue and collaboration in a conference setting.  I certainly hope that Stevens and Mello will find others intrigued by this possibility.

And now, here’s the CFP itself:

216. ―Religious Toleration Colloquium (Closed Colloquium) Patrick Mello AND Laura Stevens, English Dept., U. of Tulsa, 800 S. Tucker Dr. Tulsa, OK 74104; Tel: (918) 631-2859; Fax: (918) 631-3033; E-mail: and

The inscription of toleration into English law in 1689 has long been hailed by scholars of eighteenth-century history, politics, and culture as fundamental to the rise of mercantilism, the development of Enlightenment thought, the formation of the United Kingdom, and the foundation of the United States. In recent years, however, the inadequacy of such a Whig narrative has become increasingly apparent for the study of toleration within Britain. Moreover, work on this topic has been flourishing in several disciplines and areas both outside and across the Anglophone world.

This colloquium is intended to foster a rigorous and long-lasting critical dialogue among scholars interested in reexamining the significance of toleration and religious difference in the eighteenth century from a variety of perspectives. Rather than featuring the results of individual research, this format will encourage scholars already working in this area to

undertake a collective assessment of the state of the field. Our central goal is to map religious toleration as a concept and as a category of analysis in the eighteenth century as well as in contemporary scholarship. Key questions to be addressed will include the following:

What counted as religious toleration in the eighteenth century? How did this term alter with its deployment across context and region, and with its attachment to different religious groups? How did debates over toleration inflect or intensify discussions of topics such as statecraft, class, colonialism, economy, gender and war?

When and how did cultural climates and individual attitudes of toleration exceed or fall short of codified forms of protection for religious freedom and diversity?

How has the study of religious toleration moved forward in various disciplines and in different geographical arenas of study? Where and how are we hindered or helped by interdisciplinary, transnational, or comparative approaches to this topic? What are the most important, fruitful, and challenging areas for future study?

Prospective participants are invited to submit 100-200 word statements describing their past or current work on this topic and outlining the central questions, issues, or concerns they wish to address in the colloquium.

Any other ASECS CFPs catching your eye?


so what does it all mean? looking back at asecs 2012–open thread

[image from Yvonne Romney Dixon, Designs from Fancy, Folger exhibit guide to George Romney’s Shakespearean drawings]

I’m posting this picture of Lear to remind us all of Joe Roach’s fine Clifford Lecture of March 24th, which deployed a different Romney Lear sketch to fine effect.  Somehow, Roach moved from his usual discussion of Victorian kitsch Restoratiana to something very different: the theatrically-coded exchanges of an aristocratic father and daughters in the World’s Worst Eighteenth-Century Family.

So that was one of my high points for ASECS.  I’ve got others, but I’m curious about which panels readers found most useful for their own research and teaching.   What panels or papers were your highlights? Hit the comment button and let us know.  And I’d love to hear from any presenters if they have additional insights they’d like to share about their panel discussions.

There were also some interesting side-conference activities, in terms of THAT Camp and tweetering. I’m glad both these activities were there (though I couldn’t make THAT Camp), but I still think ASECS could be made much more available to online users, and archived better, than it currently is.  Any thoughts about how these activities added to the conference, or could be better integrated into the event?

My final comment would be a plea to the organizers of ASECS 2013 to think much more reflectively about the presentation formats for the day’s panels.  The roundtables help, but the default mode for the majority of presentations is back to back papers and very little Q&A.   I think we could be doing a lot more to vary the presentations, to make them more interactive, and to allow better feedback between presenters and audiences than the current set up.

Otherwise, it can easily become this:



“18th-c studies” meets “digital humanities”

This post by George Williams.

The CFP for ASECS 2010 is out, and I can’t help but notice that several of the panel proposals (including one being organized by Lisa Maruca and me) deal explicitly with digital humanities topics.

Details regarding these panels are available after the jump, but before you make that jump, dear reader, please indulge me for a few sentences.

Does it seem to you that the various academic disciplines concerned with the humanities are at a turning point with regard to integrating digital tools into their research and teaching methodologies? It certainly seems that way to me:

And yet, does it perhaps also feel to you that the benefits of these developments have not yet filtered down to our day-to-day academic lives?

  • The Gale Group’s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online is an amazing resource of primary texts, but it’s priced out of reach for all but the most generously funded colleges and universities, especially in light of what the average library budget looks like since the developments of the previous 12 months.
  • With the exception of Eighteenth-Century Life, our most-read journals provide RSS feeds that are practically useless.
  • Most of us probably don’t even know what an RSS feed is or why we would want to use one.
  • The English Short-Title Catalog is freely available online, which is wonderful, but the interface does not provide any advanced data output options such as useful information visualizations.
  • In 2009, most online conversations regarding our field of study make use of the exact same tool that was used 20 years ago: email.

This is not meant to be a list of complaints, mind you. We clearly have some amazing tools at our disposal. However, there are many new and powerful tools (some of them free) that could be available to us if we worked on developing them or advocated to our most influential organizations to help integrate them into existing platforms.

The idea for the panel that Lisa and I are organizing  on “The Digital Eighteenth-Century 2.0” came out of conversations with several friends at ASECS 2009: many of us have been trained to a greater or lesser extent in digital humanities methods and now work at institutions without major funding for technology. As a result, we’ve learned to improvise quite happily with what happens to be available to us, which often turns out to be tools such as these:

These conversations and our embrace of these tools make me wonder if perhaps we’re entering a new phase of digital humanities research and pedagogy, and so I coined the not-terribly-original term “The Digital Eighteenth-Century 2.0,” playing off of the “Web 2.0” buzz phrase.

  • Is this new phase a good thing?
  • Are we shortchanging what might be possible if we built our own digital tools (a daunting task) rather than using those already created for non-academic purposes? (Zotero, Omeka, and the SIMILE Timeline are, in fact, aimed at academic audiences.)
  • If one is quite happy to work and teach at a smaller, less-than-wealthy, somewhat-teaching-oriented institution, how exactly does one embrace the field of digital humanities with its traditional focus on research and big grants?
  • At what point, if ever, do we internalize the conventions, the strengths, and the weaknesses of digital media such that “The Digital Humanities” becomes “The Humanities”?

Continue reading

so who’s going to GEMCS?

Well, it looks like I will be headed there.  GEMCS will be in Dallas next fall, and I thought I’d drop in again after 15 years away.  Here’s the CFP, which has just been extended another month.

“Tracing Footprints”

October 22-25, 2009

Dallas, Texas

Drawing from the language of ecology, environmental studies, and urban planning, the theme of this year’s GEMCS conference focuses on the different valences and metaphorical possibilities of the footprint. We are especially concerned with exploring the many meanings of the footprint and expanding it as a paradigm for early modern representation. The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on ecosystems; the representational footprint may be a measure of a variety of demands” on and by a text-social, historical, institutional, and textual. The “carbon footprint” questions the global space that a city, an automobile industry, or a single individual occupies; it thus complicates differences and demarcations between built and wild spaces, technology and climate, people and nature. How does tracing a text’s footprint challenge existing definitions and boundaries of the space it occupies? How do we trace the genealogies of texts? What sorts of competing histories are embedded in objects of representation?

This year’s conference theme, “Tracing Footprints,” is intended to be suggestive rather than prescriptive, and as always, GEMCS welcomes panels and proposals on all aspects of culture between 1452 and 1848.

GEMCS was formed in 1993 to promote the study of literature, history, art history, and material culture from the Renaissance to the mid-nineteenth century across disciplinary, geographic, and cultural boundaries.

Send one-page proposals for individual papers or fully constituted panels to by May 20, 2009. In the spirit of encouraging discussion, papers are limited to ten minutes.


I’d be interested to hear if any Long Eighteenth contributors/readers will be going.  Feel free to announce/solicit panels on the blog.  See you there, DM

ASECS 2009: March 28

So what were you up to on the third day of the conference?


ASECS 2009: March 27

Good news: the conference venue has free wireless Internet access.

Bad news (for me, anyway): I appear to have killed my laptop with a wee bit of spilled water. Luckily, my data is all backed up, my insurance will cover repairs or replacement, and my iPhone allows for some connectivity.

Update (03/28/2009, 5pm): The laptop lives!

I took conference notes on my laptop yesterday, but…

Perhaps some may wish to use the comments section of this entry to write about today.


ASECS 2009: March 26

Should contributors attending this year’s meeting of ASECS have tech enough and time, please use the comments thread of this post to record your experience of the conference today.

Text? Photos? Audio? Video? Share them, please.

[See “The Art of Live Blogging,” by Beth Kanter at BlogHer (26 July, 2006).]


virtual burns memorial

[note: Sharon Alkers asked me to post this on her behalf]

Contest to Create Virtual Burns Memorial

The Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University is holding a contest to create a virtual memorial to Robert Burns that is suitable for a twenty-first century mobile and globalized world. Statues, busts and portraits played an important part in interpreting Burns in nineteenth-century culture. We are looking for an image more suitable for our contemporary time and media in order to convey the fact that Burns’s messages regarding universal brotherhood (and, by extension, sisterhood), respect for nature, and the uplifting power of the human spirit have never been more relevant. The deadline for entry is April 1, 2009. The winning design will be awarded $300 (Canadian) and will appear in Second Life on SFU’s island. (Second Life is a virtual environment increasingly popular with students and educators interested in collaborative virtual learning). The unveiling will be at the Transatlantic Burns Conference, April 7-9 at SFU. For more details or to submit an entry (preferably in digital format), contact: Leith Davis at

For more information, visit the Scottish Studies at SFU website here.

SCSECS redux


[image from Rowlandson’s “Comforts of Bath,” from Caryn Chaden’s terrific Images of Eighteenth-Century Bath website.]

Despite Hurricane Ike’s pulverization of Galveston and a last-minute move to a new location in Corpus Christi, TX, this year’s SCSECS conference seemed pretty successful to me.  As mentioned in the last thread, some long-time friends and members of the Long Eighteenth (Gena Zuroski, Dwight Codr, ) were there,  along with some friends whose work I’ve followed for a while (Michael Rotenberg-Schwarz and Matt Landers), and I also met a number of people whose work  I’ll be looking for in the future.  The number of attendees was probably down a bit because of the change in venue, but the reduced scale did make for a more convivial atmosphere.  I was also encouraged by the grad student papers, which were ambitious and knotty enough to keep the seniors on their toes.

For me, one of the highlights was Dave Radcliffe’s plenary talk, “No Man but a Blockhead: What the Eighteenth Century can Teach us about Digital Humanities,” which he gave at the Texas State Aquarium in front of a glass wall featuring a pair of graceful synchronized dolphins.  Since I’ve got my own take on Radcliffe’s topic, I’m going to blog it in a separate post, but I’d love to hear others’ reactions about this talk, which was as much about the changing infrastructures of contemporary literary research as it was about the historical parallels between 18c and contemporary scholarship.

I think we have reached the point where we consider the conditions under which we were trained (the hegemony of literature over sub-literature, English studies over American and ethnic studies, liberal arts education over corporate/scientific models of research, tenured faculty over part-time, etc.) to be historical conditions, i.e., “vanished” or “entirely gone,” whatever our feelings about the matter.

Looking over the program and my notes, I was struck by how this set of institutional changes was reflected in the increased attention to the pedagogical circumstances in which we now teach 18c literature, with all the attendant difficulties of leading undergraduate students to grasp an unfamiliar set of terms, styles, conventions, etc. , especially when literary conventions and practices themselves seem as remote as anything we teach in the 18c.  How to explain the differences in style between Tom Jones and contemporary novels, when students are more likely to be reading Manga novels or surfing the net for their leisure reading?

At the same time, discursive analyses of non-literary texts and contexts still seem popular, at least in the grad papers, but these for the most part are still directed toward securely canonical literary texts, without a lot of attention to how notions of genre and literariness are constructed in the period.

In some ways, I’d feel better if graduate student work reflected rather than resisted this relativization of print culture, with a more comparative sense of signification in a variety of media: e.g., not just studies of objects and object-narratives as a sub-genre of 18c writing, but studies of 18c objects and how they line up with other kinds of things in the period.

This is a tall order, but I think it would help us understand the strangeness of our own historical moment, and our own sense of alienation from post-WWII literary criticism, that much better.  But this is just my own sense of how we might extend “literary studies” into the future.