• 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

Lilith Todd

All seminars will continue to meet virtually through Fall 2021. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.

Meeting Schedule

09/30/2021 Online Meeting
12:00 PM
Becoming I: Criminal Interrogations and the Self: 1750-1830
Elwin Hofman, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)


In this talk, I investigate a remarkable shift in the practice of criminal justice. Up to at least 1810, clerks in the Southern Netherlands, France and Germany wrote down witness statements, interrogations and confessions in an impersonal style, in the third person. “Has she killed her infant?” “She confesses to have killed it, out of shame.” Gradually, however, interrogation transcripts started to switch to the first person, becoming much more personal and intimate. There were no laws to mandate this change. Why, then, did this shift occur all over continental Europe? And what does it mean for the history of the self? I argue that the coming of the first person relates to a growing importance of a unique and stable self with interior feelings and motivations in criminal court. I show that this shift had a profound impact: together with other changing interrogation techniques, it had as a result that suspects of all social statuses were confronted with changing expectations around selfhood and inner depth. In the criminal courts, interiority became an affair which not just the middle class, but everyone had to relate to.

10/21/2021 Online Meeting
12:00 PM

Julia Hamilton, Columbia University

11/11/2021 Online Meeting
12:00 PM

Finola O'Kane Crimmins, University College Dublin (Ireland)

12/09/2021 Online Meeting
12:00 PM

Tip Ragan, Colorado College

Jeffrey Merrick, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Jennifer Golightly, Colorado College

01/20/2022 Location TBD
12:00 PM

Andrew Franta, University of Utah

02/17/2022 Location TBD
12:00 PM

David Alff, SUNY Buffalo

03/10/2022 Location TBD
12:00 PM

Patricia A. Matthew, Montclair State University

04/21/2022 Location TBD
12:00 PM

Rebekah Mitsein, Boston College