Seminars

  • Founded
    1962
  • Seminar Number
    417

This interdisciplinary seminar hosts speakers ranging from established scholars to early-career researchers who present works-in-progress that explore and redefine eighteenth-century European culture. Our interests range from material culture to textual history, national traditions to colonial formations, historicist practice to theoretical investigation, and we therefore seek to query, expand, and innovate eighteenth-century studies. Like our guest speakers, our membership is drawn from a wide variety of institutions and disciplines: history, literature, philosophy, political science, music, history of science, and art, as well as national traditions. The Seminar’s offerings are varied in scope, and occasionally our Seminar hosts special events, such as a symposium on the intellectual origins of freedom of speech (2007, 2008) and a 50th anniversary retrospective of the Seminar (2014).  Recently our Seminar has hosted, in addition to full-length talks, roundtables on science studies (2011), comparative orientalisms (2011), the quantitative eighteenth century (2016), rediscovering race (2017), and human rights (2019).

Past Meetings


Chair
Stephanie Insley Hershinow
stephanie.insley@gmail.com

Rapporteur
Lilith Todd
ldt2120@columbia.edu

Meeting Schedule

09/21/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Napoleon’s Nemesis: Madame de Staël (1766-1817) and the Origins of Liberalism
Helena Rosenblatt, CUNY, Graduate Center
Abstract

Abstract

Despite the growing scholarship on Madame de Staël, not much has been said about her relationship with Napoleon. The relative inattention to Madame de Stael is odd when you consider the reputation she enjoyed in her own lifetime. Regarded as one of the most important French writers of all time and the most politically powerful salonnière, she was, at one point, probably Europe’s best-known enemy of Napoleon. When she arrived in London in June of 1813, after the 10 year exile that Napoleon imposed on her, she received a heroine’s welcome. It was said that there were three powers in Europe: England, Russia and Madame de Staël. My paper will describe this enmity and suggest that there is much that we can learn from it.





10/12/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Imoinda and Oroonoko’s Signed Language
Jason Farr, Marquette University
Abstract

Abstract

This talk explores how attention to the early history of English deaf education illuminates the signed language shared between Imoinda and Oroonoko of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko (1688). Behn portrays these characters’ visual transmissions as a silent language that is distinctive from–but no less important than–the spoken languages that otherwise populate the narrative. Readerly attention to the multimodal, multisensory dimensions of deaf and disabled sociability helps us to understand Oroonoko’s ambivalence regarding audism/ableism, colonialism, and enslavement. The long history of American Indian Sign Language, however, offers a stirring counternarrative to the seeming inevitability of these violent systemic arrangements.





11/09/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Empirical Statecraft: The Emergence of an Information Empire in the Eighteenth-Century Spanish Atlantic
Fidel Tavárez, Queens College, CUNY
Abstract

Abstract

The policy paper and its corollary notion of informed policymaking was once a transformative intangible information technology. This was especially the case in the Spanish Empire, where the king secured political legitimacy by processing petitions and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with his subjects. The rise of the policy paper during the eighteenth century disrupted this paradigm of governance by positing that policymaking should be based on empirical information, not dialogue. Investigating the emergence of this new empirical form of policymaking, this project shows that the eighteenth-century Spanish Atlantic became a vast laboratory of the modern information age, a development that brought to the fore both the promise of informed governance and the perils of misinformation.





01/18/2024 ZOOM
12:00 PM
Being Classical: Women, Queerness and the Ancients in the Long Eighteenth Century
Caroline Gonda, St. Catharine College, Cambridge
Abstract

Abstract

Visiting the Ladies of Llangollen in 1822, the diarist Anne Lister (1791-1840) records that she “Contrived to ask if they were classical.” “No,” Sarah Ponsonby replies, “Thank God from Latin and Greek I am free.” Classical reading was central to Lister’s self-construction, as Anna Clark argues, as well as to her coded conversations with other women who loved women. Chris Roulston reads Lister’s response to her encounters with the ancients as a complex mixture of identification and disidentification, but also as enabling her “to articulate the unthinkable and the forbidden.”

This paper explores the queer associations of ‘being classical’ for real and fictional women in the long eighteenth century: the gender nonconformity of Lister and her “blue and masculine” friend Miss “Frank” Pickford; the ways in which classical learning becomes the ground of intimacy between women for the sculptor Anne Damer (1748/9-1828) and the writer Mary Berry (1763-1852); and finally the significance of the fictional classicist Fanny Derham in Mary Shelley’s novel Lodore (1835), a fascinating but peripheral figure described as "a woman more made to be loved by her own sex than by the opposite one", and a character whose story the novel is not yet able to tell.





02/08/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Olaudah Equiano’s Ottoman Dreams
Kasia Bartoszynska, Ithaca College
Abstract

Abstract

This talk gathers up the brief, but tantalizing, descriptions of the Ottoman Empire in Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative in order to examine our different ways of knowing, talking, and writing, about Turkey. The Ottoman Empire occupies a curiously in-between space in the literary and critical imagination; a part of Europe but also (tantalizingly) Other. What did it represent to Equiano, that led him to declare his intention “at last to set out for Turkey, and there to end my days” even as he also noted the oppression of Greeks, and the seclusion of women? What do we learn from various silences and gaps in his narrative? As I revisit debates about Orientalism, and examine ideas of exilic consciousness and what Katherine McKittrick calls “method-making,” I consider what Turkey meant to Equiano, and how he may teach us to know it differently.





03/21/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM

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04/18/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM

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