Panels Seeking Papers

These panels will be seeking papers for the postponed Material Matters that will run in Fall 2021.

John Gay at 300

300 hundred years ago, John Gay’s Poems on Several Occasions was published. This panel intends to celebrate to greatness of this satirical master by presenting papers on his work, life, and cultural milieu. All approaches are welcome: Gay as poet, Gay as dramatist, Gay as prose writer. Gay as Scriblerian, Gay as cultural marker, etc. Please send 250-word abstracts to Dr. Anthony Lee ( by June 1, 2020.

Recent Research and Criticism in Swift Studies

While this panel invites research and criticism on any aspect of Jonathan Swift’s life, his writings, and his circle of friends, it also invites reflections on the legacy of Donald (“Don”) C. Mell, Jr., whose intelligence and kindness made “Swift Studies” a welcoming place to be. Inspired by the generosity and openness of Don Mell’s calls-for-papers, this panel welcomes innovative reassessments of Swift’s works and their critical reception as well as thoughtful considerations about Don Mell’s scholarship or his influence on scholarly projects. The conference theme—Material Matters in the Long Eighteenth Century—intersects productively if mournfully with the spirit of this panel. Whether analyzing Swift’s attempts conjure Esther Johnson’s presence in his writings before and after her death or trying to remember Don Mell in a way that preserves his influence on Swift Studies, we confront a material loss, an absence that matters. Please send proposals (150 words) to the following e-mail address: Panelists will have fifteen minutes to present a paper or offer an informal reflection on topics relevant to the panel proposal. After the presentations, panelists and members of the audience will have the opportunity to discuss issues raised during the session.

Legal Things: Benches, Books, Wigs, and Woolsacks?

The panel invites work on how the “things” of law and the regulations and mores around them signify in eighteenth-century Anglo-American literature and culture. The mythology around the ownership of Blackstone’s Commentaries offers only one example of the role of the “thing” in defining legal expertise. How did legal professionals (barristers, solicitors, magistrates, justices of the peace, courthouse staff, etc.) assert their authority and define their subjectivity through expressive “things” like dress, carriage, ownership of objects, cushions, seating choices, etc.? How did transporting English legal customs to the Colonies change the kinds of “things” associated with the law? The panel welcomes deep dives into particular items that signified law or broader inquiries into the meaning of the “thing” in legal culture.  Please send 250-word abstracts/proposals to Kathryn Temple ( by June 1st.

Reinvent the Ph.D. in the Humanities: Preparing Graduate Students for Diverse Employment

The panel seeks proposals for innovation in graduate education at both the M.A. and Ph.D. level. How can we help our humanities graduate students navigate a tough job market and prepare for diverse careers both within and outside of the academy? How do the skills and habits of mind developed in eighteenth-century studies graduate programs map onto diverse careers? We welcome both faculty and graduate student voices to join in this discussion. Please submit a short expression of interest to by June 1st.

Theater Things

Building on the conference theme, this panel invites papers that consider the role of things in our study of theatre and performance. Material objects are at the center of both dramatic plots and the anecdotes that make up much eighteenth-century theatre history: David Garrick’s fright wig, Lady Easy’s steinkirk in The Careless Husband, the wig that Charles Macklin killed a man over. How did particular objects – whether costumes, props, or elements of set design – contribute to actor celebrity? How were objects recycled? How might they haunt performance or act as nodes, connecting plays and performances intertheatrically? How do the things of theatre act on those around them? This panel also invites papers that consider the objects and artifacts that enable our study of the eighteenth-century theatre, from pocket diaries to figurines to extra-illustrated books. I welcome papers that address any aspect of the materiality of theatre, performance, or theatre history. Please send roughly 250-word abstracts to Jane Wessel ( by June 1, 2020.

Women in the World: Shaping Identity through Objects and Space

In texts representing women and their lives, the physical spaces and items a woman has access to or desires, are often indicative of her social position, emotions, and/or psychological state. In the well-known example of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela for instance, owning and being able to wear her mistress’ clothes is an indication that Pamela is socially higher than the other servants in the household. Her access to these clothes is also read (by those around her) as a sign that she is morally compromised; she in turn sees this access as part of her suffering.  The clothes, therefore, function as a sign of the complexity of her social identity, position in the home, and of social norms and standards.  This panel seeks to explore moments in texts of the long eighteenth-century that center on material objects and physical spaces. Possible questions of interest for this panel include: What can we glean about the formation of a woman’s identity from her interaction with the material world? What do regulations and practices around the objects and spaces used by women reveal about their place in society? How are objects—those designated for a woman’s use and those prohibited—used to control and shape women’s identities? Do the representations and placement of objects in the texts problematize definitions of the domestic space? How are objects and spaces used by women to challenge the limitations placed on them?  Through such questions, we will analyze the tensions between any aspect of a woman’s identity—ie. race, class, gender, spirituality—and the use and appropriation of material objects by women. Please send 250 word abstracts to Andrea Fabrizio ( and to Ruth Garcia ( by June 1st.

Bibliography, Book History, and Textual Studies

This panel seeks papers that explore any aspect of bibliography, book history, or textual studies. The term ‘book history’ is broadly conceived and includes issues of authorship, reading, publishing, literacy, censorship, illustrations, the book as a material artifact, libraries, and other forms of print such as periodicals, newspapers, tracts, ephemera, and the like. In keeping with this year’s conference theme, papers that focus on these topics and themes within the context of “Material Matters” are especially welcomed. Please send 250-word abstracts/proposals to Eleanor Shevlin ( by June 1st. While electronic submissions are preferred, submitters may also send hard copies by snail mail to Eleanor at 2006 Columbia Road, NW, Apt. 42, Washington, DC 20009.

Tea and Misplaced Sympathy: The British View of the American Revolution

Every year on the 4th of July we celebrate the courage and tenacity of American patriots who, in the name of freedom, took on Britain, the world’s most powerful nation. Should we be quite so sanctimonious about the colonists’ intentions and actions? In one instance, tea became the focus of the 18th century American colonists’ rage against the Mother Country. Were the pseudo-Indians right to dump 45 tons of tea into Boston’s harbor—not the only tea-dumping episode that month, by the way? Was the view from the other side of the pond perhaps an accurate one calling the law-breaking colonists “a lot of criminals” who deserved hanging?

The famously named Boston Tea Party is just one example of the many instances when the version of the American Revolution with which we are familiar is not a completely accurate one. This panel seeks papers that view the American Revolution from the British perspective. Some material objects worth discussing are land and housing exemplified by the destruction of Loyalist properties and possessions, the realities of the “quartering Act” and, at the war’s end the colonists’ claims for the return of their human “property” freed by the British during the war. As the conference organizers write: “We interpret “material” in the largest sense.” How do material matters function when looking at the American Revolution from the British side? Please send 250-word abstracts to Elizabeth Lambert, Professor Emerita, Gettysburg College

Encountering the Orient: Diplomacy, Discovery, Travel, Trade, Colonialism, and Representation in the British and American Eighteenth Century (Panel completed)

The period from 1660 to 1830 saw an extraordinary orientation toward the Orient in British and American political, commercial, cultural, artistic, literary, and scientific life. This panel seeks 3 or 4 papers of 15-20 minutes each in length that explore British or American encounters with the Orient during the long eighteenth century. All historical and critical approaches are welcome, as are interdisciplinary papers, illustrated papers, and papers that discuss material and artistic objects.  Please send 1-page abstract and short cv to Greg Clingham,

The function of material and still extant objects & places in historical fiction

Martha Bowden in her Descendants of Waverley argues that really there, or still extant recognizable and famous objects in a historical romance function to provide both authenticity and familiarity. I suggest such objects also function inspirationally for authors as well as enabling readers also to become trespassers in time, a phrase DuMaurier uses for her time- and place-traveling in her fiction. I call for papers which focus on material objects and places in historical fiction set in the 18th century and novels which time-travel to and from the 18th century. I also welcome treatments of books written in the 18th century where the focus is on past history as well as any encounters any of us have had with material objects (it’s fine to use manuscripts, paintings, and movies which set us off on our journeys into the 18th century or particular projects we’ve written essays or books or set up exhibits about). Ellen Moody, OLLIs at American University & George Mason. Please send abstracts to by June 1, 2020.