CfP: BSECS 51st Annual Conference “Indifference and Engagement”

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2022 Call for Papers: This call will open  08:00 BST on 1st July 2021 and will close at 23:59 (GMT) 1st November 2021.

Event dates: 5th-7th January 2022

As you will no doubt be aware, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force a re-evaluation of in-person events around the world. As a conference team we have also had to weigh up our options and decide upon an appropriate course of action for the organisation, balancing the value of an in-person conference with its risks. Ultimately, we have decided that it would not be right to commit to organising an in-person conference in January 2022, and we have therefore decided that BSECS 2022 will be a virtual event. This was no easy decision to make, but we felt that conditions were still too uncertain at the present time to make any other option feasible with our present resources.

Further details about the event will be made in the autumn, but the format will be similar to the 2021 conference: 2 synchronous days and 1 asynchronous to catch up on talks and workshops.

Call for Papers

The vitriolic sign-off that Voltaire increasingly used in his letters from 1759 onwards as part of his attack on abuses of power, “écrasez l’infâme”, or crush the infamous muck, grind it underfoot, seems as indelibly associated with the century we now call the Enlightenment as Rousseau’s counsel to withdraw from society altogether. In this century of campaign, reform, and revolution, how do we understand the rejection of the “esprit de parti” or partisanship?

What happens to notions of civility and concord in an emerging public sphere? How do the notions of indifference or engagement connect to questions of morality? Do they at all? Do these terms even exist in these forms? Do campaigning and reform particularly characterise eighteenth-century society, and if so, in which countries or connected to what activities? How are campaigns mounted, in aid of what, by whom, and who do they seek to persuade? Who refuses to take a position, and how do they justify their refusal? How could and why would a writer like Sade have his most truly sadistic libertines develop a theory of non-feeling or apathy? What is the role of sensibility in all this?

While proposals on all and any eighteenth-century topics are very welcome, this year our plenary speakers at the conference will accordingly be addressing the topic of ‘Indifference and Engagement’, and proposals are also invited which address any aspect of this theme.

The annual meeting of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies is Europe’s largest and most prestigious annual conference dealing with all aspects of the history, culture and literature of the long eighteenth century. We invite proposals for papers and sessions dealing with any aspect of the long eighteenth century, not only in Britain, but also throughout Europe, North America, and the wider world.

Proposals are invited for fully comprised panels of three papers, for roundtable sessions of up to five speakers, for individual papers of twenty minutes duration, and for ‘alternative format’ sessions of your devising.

Please note, to attend the online conference, you must be a member of BSECS or another national Eighteenth-Century Studies Association. For more information on how to join please visit our ‘Join’ page.

Enquiries: All enquiries regarding the academic programme of the conference should be addressed to Dr Brianna Robertson-Kirkland via the BSECS email address

More information is available here.