Isolation is arguably the zeitgeist of the year of COVID-19. Remote working, online learning, shielding, stay-at-home orders, social distancing–all involve some form of isolation, whether enforced or self-imposed. This inescapable theme, then, seems particularly appropriate for an author whose works insistently probe the meanings of isolation. Defoe’s fiction, for example, obsessively returns to the relationship between individuation, civil community, and isolation beyond Robinson Crusoe: Roxana longed for isolation; Captain Singleton made halting attempts to overcome it; and, as evidenced by many journalistic and mass media pieces, A Journal of the Plague Year resonates with our current pandemic. Moreover, the differences among isolation, solitude, and loneliness also have a political dimension. As Hannah Arendt argued, isolation is the prerequisite for totalitarianism; by creating division and destroying the “public realm of life,” isolation radically disempowers collective action and communal agency. Defoe’s works also examine the politics of isolation, whether articulated via national culture or party politics (think about the anti-isolationist True-Born Englishman, or Legion’s Memorial). This panel seeks short papers or other explorations of isolation in eighteenth-century writing and culture: what it means, its costs, its benefits, its resonance today.
Please send abstracts to Dr Stephen H. Gregg (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Professor Laura Stevens (email@example.com)
See the conference website for more information on ASECS 2022.