Call for Papers: Depicting the Eighteenth Century in Media Entertainment

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From BBC dramas and Netflix series to luxurious cinematic blockbusters and Bollywood period films, public audiences continue to engage with fascinating eighteenth-century figures, both real and fictional. Such depictions are often the first encounter many will have with the eighteenth century. While some eighteenth-century enthusiasts’ recoil at historical inaccuracies, many see this as an opportunity to engage public audiences, supplying an entrance into discussions of the eighteenth century. Indeed, media entertainment in itself can be a vehicle to both explore and imagine gaps surviving historical documentation cannot fill. As discussed by Richard V. Francaviglia (2007: viii), who focused his study on historical film, ‘… film’s power to emotionalize by engaging the viewer offers the potential to tell stories–that is, interpret the historical record–in new and exciting ways like no other medium.’ The same can be said of television dramas, musicals, novels, plays, trade books and a myriad of other media entertainment that permits the interpreter the opportunity to go beyond evidence and into the realm of imagination.

What new ideas and discoveries emerge from such interpretations? Is there a best practice standard for researchers and media entertainment professionals working together? If not, what steps can be taken to establish such practices? How are twenty-first century concerns reflected and discussed against these eighteenth-century backdrops? How has such media entertainment influenced pedagogy on the eighteenth century? How has research into the more intangible elements, such as emotions, relationships, and life behind closed doors shaped our understanding of the eighteenth century? How far is an interpreter permitted to go before their interpretation is too fantastical?

These are the key questions we would like to explore through this proposed special issue. We would like to bring together researchers from different disciplines to consider the impact media entertainment has had on their research and pedagogy. This is a rich area that covers multiple disciplines including art history, environmental studies, theatre, literature, history, music, and slavery to name a few.

We invite short abstracts of c.250 words for proposed articles for a Special Issue on Depicting the Eighteenth Century in Media Entertainment. We particularly welcome abstracts which engage with non-Western media productions and outputs. Thereafter, we will hold a 1-day symposium that will allow us to share our ideas together and identify key strands for discussion, thus allowing opportunities for cross-referencing. We intend to submit the Special Issue to the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies for consideration.

The deadline for abstracts is 30th April 2024. Please email all abstracts and queries to Rachel Bynoth at