Credulity: Enchantment and Modernity in the 19th-Century U.S.

« Back to Events
This event has passed.
Credulity: Enchantment and Modernity in the 19th-Century U.S.
03/29/2013 9:30 am
Emily Ogden
Heyman Center, Common Room, Second Floor
Columbia University, New York

 Credulity: Enchantment and Modernity in the 19th-Century U.S.

29 March 2013  |  9:30am-5:15pm

30 March 2013  |  9:30am-1:30pm

Free and open to the public, RSVP suggested, photo ID required for entry.

For more information and to RSVP, please visit:

What is the place of enchantment in nineteenth-century America? Scholars of the secular have been accumulating a rich description of what it meant in this period to “aim for ‘modernity,'” in Talal Asad’s phrase. This conference asks about the persons and knowledges which appeared as excessive, even dangerous, to this project—while assuming that this excess cannot simply be described as “religion.” Credulity, a frequent term of abuse in antebellum sources, meant believing too readily and too well, often with the implication of bodily mismanagement: the credulous person’s nerves or brain did her down. So who were the credulous, and what did they know? Detractors saw an ad-hoc collection of gullible scientists, political patsies, occult practitioners, religious enthusiasts, fiction readers, and superstitious primitives, all of them behind the times. But how were such alleged failures distinctively modern? Did connections develop between forms of credulity at first linked only by their bad reputations? How should we understand credulity’s angle on the rational—as symptom, queering, disability, doubling?

Conference Participants:

Jennifer J. Baker, New York University
Courtney Bender, Columbia University
Jennifer Brady, Harvard University
Lara Langer Cohen, Wayne State University
Peter Coviello, Bowdoin College
Jennifer Fleissner, Indiana University Bloomington
Christopher Hunter, California Institute of Technology
Vesna Kuiken, Columbia University
Dana Luciano, Georgetown University
John Lardas Modern, Franklin and Marshall College
Emily Ogden, Columbia University
Sarah Rivett, Princeton University
Cristobal Silva, Columbia University
Jordan Alexander Stein, Fordham University
John Tresch, University of Pennsylvania

 Co-sponsored by: The Society of Fellows in the Humanities, The Heyman Center for the Humanities, The Department of English and Comparative Literature