• Founded
  • Seminar Number

This interdisciplinary seminar hosts leading national and regional scholars who present works-in-progress that explore aspects of eighteenth-century European culture of vital interest and concern to the wider field of 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 eclectic, but from time to time our Seminar has hosted special events such as symposia on the 18th-century reception of Classical, Hellenistic, and Late Antique texts (2003) and the intellectual origins of freedom of speech (2007, ­2008).  Proceedings from the latter recently appeared as a collection of essays edited by former Chair Elizabeth Powers, Freedom of Speech: The History of an Idea (Bucknell University Press, 2011). Most recently, our Seminar has co-sponsored, with the Seminar on Early Modern France, a series of roundtables on new directions in eighteenth-century studies under the rubric of “Literature and History in Dialogue.” Past roundtables have been devoted to concepts of authorship (Fall 2010), eighteenth-century science studies (Spring 2011), and comparative colonialisms and orientalisms (Fall 2011). Our 2012-2013 program marked the Seminar’s 50th year in operation.

Past Meetings

Professor Stephanie Insley Hershinow

Professor Kathleen Lubey

Katherine Bergevin

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

03/04/2021 Online Meeting
12:30 PM
Collage before Modernism?: Eighteenth-Century Collage, Periodization and Queering Art History
Freya Gowrley, University of Derby (England, UK)


In the essay ‘Collage: A Brief History’, Dawn Ades writes that ‘when Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque started gluing bits to their pictures in 1912, this had nothing to do with long-standing popular past-times like pasting cut out images onto fire screens, and everything to do with art’. Ades’ statement is typical of existing histories of collage, which tend to figure the genre as the result of modernist innovation, as opposed to a medium with a long and distinctive history. Crucially, the quotation also reinforces a number of entrenched hierarchies within art history: differences between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art forms; divisions of modern and pre-modern; and, most crucially, the gendered separation between artist and amateur. Yet these categorical distinctions pose fundamental questions about the nature of art itself, prompting considerations of how art is defined, of the identities and motivations of those who make it, and of why certain objects have been consistently overlooked by art history.

This paper has three aims, firstly to provide a detailed examination of collage made in the long eighteenth-century, arguing for its centrality as a mode of artistic expression during this period. Secondarily, it will identify periodization as a central evaluative and organisational methodology within art history, arguing that the strict distinction drawn between collage made before and after 1912 is central to the explicitly gendered ways in which collage has been conceptualized. The paper will address and trouble this sharp division by framing it in terms of a gendered disentanglement of art from craft, while highlighting the productive possibilities of a transhistorical approach to collage, which centers the production of the genre in the long eighteenth century. Finally, the paper will figure this approach to collage as a kind of queering of the discipline of art history and its narratives, reading Aby Warburg’s Bilderatlas Mnemosyne – his collage-like method of visual thinking across art’s histories – alongside and against explicitly queer works by the artist Kenneth Halliwell, as made in 1960s.

04/22/2021 Online Meeting
12:30 PM
meeting postponed
Elwin Hofman, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)