Category Archives: Conferences

Defoe, Truth, and Lies: CFP for BSECS 2018

Call For Papers:  Defoe Society panel at the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies annual conference, Oxford, January 2018.

‘Defoe, Truth, and Lies’

But these Men care not what Injurious Things they Write, not what they Say, whether Truth or Not, if it may but raise a Reproach on me. … Conscia Mens Recti fuma Mendacia Ridet [‘the mind conscious of its own rectitude laughs at the lies of rumour’].

Defoe, An Appeal to Honour and Justice (1715)

It is tempting to mobilise the language of ‘fake news’ or the recent debates about historical fiction to get at Daniel Defoe’s experience of the written world. There is, of course no need. As the subject of truth and lies from his own time to the present day, and as the manipulator of truth and lies in his writings, Defoe is exactly the right author of the conference theme for BSECS 2018. This panel invites proposals on the topic of Defoe, truth and lies, and which might address issues such as:

  • The novel – genre and epistemology
  • Credit and creditability
  • Biographical and autobiographical narration
  • Journalism and politics
  • Necessity and realpolitick
  • Masquerade, hypocrisy, deception, and displacement
  • Spying and spies
  • The truth of ‘Defoe’: biographical representations

Proposals of no more than 250 words should be for papers of 20mins length. Please email proposals, by October 1st, to Stephen Gregg,

Note. If your paper is accepted and you will be presenting at the panel (and if you are not already a member), you will need to join the Defoe Society. Details of how to join can be found here:

BSECS conference webpage.



CFP: Digital Humanities panels at ASECS 2016

Omni William Penn Hotel
Omni William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA.

The Digital Humanities Caucus invites paper proposals for two panels (see below) for ASECS 2016, Pittsburgh. Deadline for proposals to be sent to panel organisers: 15th September.

1. “Small-Scale Digital Humanities” (Roundtable) (Digital Humanities Caucus). Stephen H. Gregg, Department of English and Cultural Studies, Bath Spa University, Newton St. Loe, Bath. BA2 9BN, UK; Tel: (044) 7771702912; E-mail:

A large, but largely unreported, amount of digital humanities work occurs outside of big research centres or well-funded collaborative projects. Such work might be undertaken by a scholar who is the sole academic in their Faculty – or one of a small handful of academics in their University – engaged in the digital humanities. They might also be working on a highly focused or a relatively small-scale digital project. This is a roundtable panel that seeks share the experiences of small-scale digital humanities work and the lone digital humanist. It seeks to engage with the challenges facing such scholars, such as:
· building value and recognition at home
· creating networks and collegial support at home
· networking outside the home University (regional, national, international)
· finding funding
· issues of technical support and training

2. “Building an Eighteenth-Century Corpus” (Digital Humanities Caucus) Scott Enderle, Skidmore College AND Mark Vareschi, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 600 N. Park St. Madison, WI 53706; Tel: (908) 420-1396; E-mail: and

The Digital Humanities Caucus invites proposals on the politics, possibilities, and practicalities of building an Eighteenth-century corpus. While much focus in the digital humanities has been on the analyses of corpora, this panel considers the selection and construction of corpora necessary and prior to such analyses. How possible is it to create a “complete” or “representative” corpus? As we build corpora, how should we address the problem of archival silences? Further questions this panel may explore: What processes might we use to select works in a corpus? (Selection by “hand”? By some algorithm? Based on this or that metadata? What kinds of arguments are these different methods useful for?)
How should we think about the disjoint temporality of corpora? (An unplanned corpus — the books on a bookshelf — may include works from many different periods. A planned corpus built using temporal constraints may include just those texts from a given period, but only if they have been preserved by successive generations.) What could, for example, an eighteenth-century corpus tell us about the Victorian era or the seventeenth century? Might histories of reading help us build corpora? (How accessible were different kinds of documents? What reading habits did they invite?). This panel invites interdisciplinary perspectives and innovative presentation formats.

Distant reading a conference

Conference hashtags via TAGSExplorer
Conference hashtags via TAGSExplorer

Last week I volunteered to chair some sessions for the MIX: Writing Digital conference at Bath Spa University. The conference brought together a wonderful and eclectic mix of creative digital writing and trans-media publishing projects. As perhaps the only literary-critical scholar at the conference (and an eighteenth-centurist to boot), I was on the borders of a lot of the discussions taking place – enjoyable and intriguing though they were. It was perhaps this that led me to play around with my engagement with the conference. So below are some visualisations of the conference programme – in this case the programme also included bios of the delegates and abstracts of the presentations, so it’s reasonably representative of the conference’s themes . The first is a word-frequency analysis of the conference programme using Voyant Cirrus, but with some of the obvious large-frequency words  – like ‘University’ ‘Writing’ and ‘Digital’ – edited out, a move that I think brings out some of the finer detail of the conference’s themes.


Similarly, when the words were visualised as a network (this via Textexture) one can follow connections between themes. A suprising ‘reading’ of the conference programme was produced when I submitted it to the Scientific Music Generator (with its self-deprecating acronymn, SMUG) to generate a 2-minute song. This is perhaps the most radical ‘deformation’ of the programme (a term borrowed from Mark Sample’s ‘Towards a Deformed Humanities‘): while some of the lyrics are nonsense,  I was particularly struck by this wonderfully suggestive verse:

that game technology in-in-incantations experiences will
my-my-my voices for oversharing, and these moved at submissions ways space
ooh author, adaptations
open other working, includes that author

Finally, since I love tweeting during conferences, I put the conference hashtag through Mark Hawksey’s TAGS to produce a visualisation of the conference tweets (see above for the screen grab).

Given so many of the projects and writings discussed during the conference were thinking through the possibilities offered by asychronous engagements with text, it seemed apposite that this kind of playing around with various analysers offered another way of engaging with the various texts of conference.

CFP: Defoe Society panels at ASECS2015

Fig 3 AUTHOR - Daniel DefoeCall for Papers: the Defoe Society have proposed two sessions for ASECS 2015, March 19-22, Los Angeles.

“Defoe, His Contemporaries, and the Americas” (Daniel Defoe Society) Andreas Mueller, U. of Worcester, Henwick Grove, Worcester, WR2 6AJ, United Kingdom; Tel: +44 (0) 1905 855000; E-mail:

The Defoe Society invites proposals for papers that engage with the role and representation of the Americas in the works of Defoe and/or his contemporaries. Specific topics may include, but are not limited to, the Americas as a material resource; colonizing the Americas; encountering native Americans; slavery and the Americas; the Americas and spiritual allegory; the New World vs the Old World; the Americas in English travel literature. Paper proposals concerning the republication of texts and their reception in the Americas are also welcome.

“Defore and Architecture” (Daniel Defoe Society) Rivka Swenson, Dept. of English, Virginia Commonwealth U., 900 Park Ave., P.O. Box 842005, Richmond, VA 23284-2005; Tel: (804) 827-8328; Fax: (804) 828-8684; E-mail:

An Act of Union like a mighty arch. A three-sided school for women. A basketwork beehive house for multiple families to live in. A house made entirely from china. A history like a maze. Defoe’s ideas and characters and things rarely exist in empty space but are instead articulated within discrete physical (or metaphorically physicalized), indeed architectural, contexts. This Defoe Society panel is devoted to thinking about the ways in which architecture, as both reality and metaphor, figures prominently across Daniel Defoe’s writings; Defoe was as interested in finding the right architectural metaphors to describe a given idea or character or thing as he was in describing how the real world (both material and immaterial) is expressed within specific formal-spatial-architectural contexts. Please send (via email) 500-word abstracts for 20 minute papers.


Smock Races, Ageing Players and Lovely Libraries

More fine comment on BSECS 2014 from Conrad Brunstrom.


Highlights of Day 2 of BSECS 2014….

I missed a lot of course – missed any number of alternative sessions and alternative panels – but I don’t know if I’d want to exchange what I did get yesterday.

The day began with Victoria Joule reminding us all to re-read The New Atalantis and to reimagine the relationship between politics and pleasure, and to reconsider the nature of women’s political engagement in terms other than some derogatory notion of “scandal”.  Peter Radford reminded us of wonderful things that we won’t soon forget – the elite women athletes of the eighteenth century.  Most professional runners were women.  In 1768,  in long anticipation of the Billie Jean King versus Bobbie Riggs tennis battle of the sexes, Mme Bunel beat Mr Tomkins.  Twice.  And Carolyn Williams then spoke eloquently about cards, and those “diversions” that sexist discourse has always sought to stygmatise.

Other highlights…

View original post 187 more words

Austerity, Beer Ballads, and Sexy Fruit


A quick round up of some of the highlights of Day One of BSECS 2014…

This is not definitive – this is just my list, based on my own peculiar road map through the event.

This conference, like one more than a decade ago, was marked by floods.  Inundations.  As I ran around Didcot Parkway station yesterday it occurred to me that perhaps I loved this conference too much.  Perhaps there was something a little idolatrous about my love of BSECS and God as made wroth and had opened the heavens in order to take it from me.

Then a voice divine the storm allayed, a light propitious shone and a train was found to crawl, inch by inch along a narrow embankment in the middle of what had become a large lake – bubbling and eddying on either side of us.  Oxford had a moat, and our bridge looked…

View original post 511 more words

CFP: Defoe Society panels at ASECS 2014

There are two exciting panel sessions being proposed under the auspices of the Daniel Defoe Society for the annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 2014 (Williamsburg, VA). Details of the Call for Papers are here:

‘“A True-Born Englishman’s a Contradiction’: Nation, Identity, and Verse 1660-1830.” Andreas Mueller, University of Worcester, Henwick Grove, Worcester, WR2 6AJ, United Kingdom. E-mail:
The eighteenth century was, as Linda Colley has suggested in Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1873, the time when ‘a broad sense of British national identity’ was ‘superimposed on much older allegiances’. Verse publications such as Daniel Defoe’s The True-Born Englishman (1700), which was frequently republished throughout the century and beyond, provided a platform for an interrogation of the relationship between the individual and national history, and a means for contesting dominant and emerging notions of Englishness and/or Britishness . Extending the period covered by Colley’s seminal study to include the years from 1660, proposals are invited for papers that explore late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century verse productions by Defoe and other
writers of verse in relation to the broadly defined concept of national identity.

“Defoe and his Contemporaries: Trauma, Memory, and the Mind.” Kit Kincade, Dept. of English, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809. E-mail:
This panel seeks to investigate Defoe, and his contemporaries, expressions of trauma and how it manifests itself through depictions of memories, how the memory might work, or how the mind processes the trauma.

Defoe Society Conference 2013

The Defoe Society has announced that they have extended the CFP deadline until Friday, April 19.

logosecondaryThis is “to give all of our ASECS colleagues time to reboot and think ahead to the next awesome event. Please send your proposals, on any topic relevant to Defoe OR his early 18th-century culture and contemporaries, to Sharon Alker at Hope to see you there.”

Defoe at the 2013 BSECS annual meeting

The theme for the 42nd annual meeting of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies was ‘Credit, Money, and the Market’. Defoe, I thought, is going to be big at this conference.

Sadly, I had to miss Robert D. Hume’s  keynote lecture: from what I heard from others and from talking with Robert later, Defoe’s novels featured quite significantly. To an extent, I’d got the gist of this particular argument a couple of years ago from one of his postgraduate students at Penn State, David W. Spielman (those who attended the Defoe Society’s inaugural conference in Tulsa 2009 may remember David’s paper). Essentially, in calculating modern monetary equivalents, we’ve all being grossly underestimating the multiplier.[1] For Defoe’s novels such as Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and Roxana – in which the protagonists practically drool over their lists of wealth and goods – this is very important. Take Roxana’s estimate of her own and her Dutch husband’s final combined wealth: £100,000. Given that only 200 families in England, or 0.01% of the population, had more than £6,000 this astonishing figure places them at the very top of the English rich list. The modern equivalent, according to Hume and Spielman’s calculation, is between £20 – £30 million. As they have argued, such a remarkable figure asks us to seriously reconsider these novels’ supposed realism. More importantly I think, is the element of fantasy: this is wealth porn (and I always thank David Fairer for pointing out to me some time ago that Defoe’s lists of money and goods seem almost erotically charged).

Immediately following that was my own paper, ‘Swallows and Hounds: Defoe’s Thinking Animals’, so I can’t really report on that other than to say that you can get a partial sense of it by reading on this blog an earlier post entitled ‘Our Summer Friends the Swallows’.

On the Friday I chaired the Defoe Society-sponsored panel entitled ‘Defoe, speculation, and moral hazards’. Frauke Jung (Worcester) spoke on ‘Speculation, News, and Nation: Defoe’s Anatomy of Exchange Alley (1719). Jung’s close reading of Defoe’s pamphlet sought to underline the inextricability of those three terms. The images of what she called ‘malignant growth [and] uncontrolled speculation’ clearly relates to the pamphlet’s state-of-the-nation style. But Jung also emphasised the notion of speculation as bound to news and finance –‘analogous systems’ – as revealed in Defoe’s image of a doorway exchange of furtive stock-price gossip in the alley. Indeed, Jung’s discussion of Defoe’s minute topography of Exchange Alley, “the whole Stock-jobbing Globe” as he puts it, reveals his clever analysis of an ecology of speculative contagion undermining a more natural body-politic.

Jeanne Clegg (University of Venice), in her paper, ‘The market in stolen goods in Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack and Jonathan Wild,’ discussed Defoe’s analysis of the methods by which stolen goods are converted into ‘hard cash’. In Moll Flanders, our heroine has a ‘privileged’ relationship with her own fence – Moll’s old governess turned pawnbroker in the sense that Moll receives preferential rates and benefits from her fence’s very smoothly organized network. In Colonel Jack, Defoe reverses this picture by representing the gang’s receivers as corrupt and untrustworthy. Clegg then looked to Jonathan Wild, arguing that in this novel we see a picture of a receiver who is organized, professional and who has well developed systems, networks and markets. Intriguingly, Clegg measured this against evidence from Old Bailey Online, tracking criminals arrested for receiving and /or theft. Clegg notes that out of 18 trials (in the period of the early eighteenth century) only one criminal had a regular fence: the rest relied on a opportunistic method of choosing receivers which even included genuine pawnbrokers and shopkeepers (which goes far in explaining their lack of success!) Clegg’s argument was that Defoe emphasized the professional and systemized networks of fencing, rather than these haphazard practices, and so contributed to the myth of the organized criminal underground. However, her reliance on the evidence of Jonathan Wild – a work whose attribution to Defoe is now under question – potentially problematizes this as a reflection of Defoe’s particular vision.

The final paper of the panel, by Chris Borsing (Trinity College, Dublin), intriguingly paralleled Captain Singleton’s narrative contract with the reader with its narrative of economic transformation, in his paper ‘Daniel Defoe Names the Price; or, Captain Singleton (1720) Bargains with its Customers’. He wittily argued that this novel offers readers ‘voyeuristic pleasures’ of ‘money regeneration and spiritual laundering’. Bob Singleton and Williams Walters’ transformation from plundering pirates to wealthy citizens at the end of the novel is accompanied by and dependent upon a contract with the reader and their ‘willing collusion’ in their secrecy within British society. Moreover, Borsing’s summary – ‘buyer beware!’ – seemed to suggest that such a contract actually reveals more than it conceals: economic and narrative laundering are inextricable in this novel.

One paper that I was glad to have heard was during a panel organised by Sacha Klement (Exeter) entitled ‘Transgressive Enlightenment?’ After two excellent papers on the desert caravan route, Majid Alavi (Islamic Azad University of Tabriz) in his paper, ‘Similar Landscapes, Different Minds’, revisited the relationship between Robinson Crusoe and Ibn Tofayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzãn, the philosophical fiction written in twelfth-century Islamic Spain and regarded by some as one of the influences upon Defoe’s novel. Tofayl’s narrative was translated into English in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (an edition of Hayy Ibn Yaqzãn appeared in 1713). Surprisingly, it was the third most translated text after the Koran and Arabian Nights, and Locke, Spinoza and Leibnitz pressed for the propagation of Hayy Ibn Yaqzãn. Asking whether Defoe was following Tofayl or whether they were both addressing ‘global archetypes’, Alavi at first underlines the resemblance that despite isolation both Crusoe and Hayy evolved systems of philosophy and experienced spiritual enlightenment. However, Alavi convincingly argued that, by contrast, Hayy’s isolation ‘taught him endless tolerance’ and that Hayy returns to island to avoid the corruption of society and in order to better ‘serve god’. Clearly this is a very different outcome to the first two parts of Robinson Crusoe, although I wondered whether a consideration of the third part of the trilogy, The Serious Reflections During the Life and Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, might have added to this interesting discussion.

Due to an almost inevitable clash between panels, I was unable to see Nicholas Seager’s paper ‘“She will not be the Tyrant they desire”: Defoe on Queen Anne’, but I did catch the final two papers of the conference devoted to Defoe which were part of a panel chaired by Nick: ‘Defoe, Credit and Economic Imperialism’. Michael Genovese (University of Kentucky) presented us, in ‘Bankruptcy and Plague: Credit and Contagion in Defoe’, with the powerful proposition that Defoe’s economic theory suggested a ‘proto-sentimental’ alignment of ‘sympathy and commerce’. A 1707 Review piece established a distinction between the ‘knavish debtor’ and the sentimental victims of misfortune pictured as the ‘sons and daughters of sorrow.’ But strikingly, Defoe also included creditors as objects of sympathy; bound in a contagious chain of mutual ‘entanglement’, one ruin leads to another. Defoe, Genovese argues, suggests that it is only at such times that ‘society’ is revealed: ‘social integration’ paradoxically relies upon the feeling that financial ruin ‘lies just around the corner for everyone.’ In the second paper of the panel Captain Singleton once again came in for attention. Tsai-ching Yeh’s argument (Huafan University), in  ‘Piracy and Trade in Defoe’s Captain Singleton’, brought out tensions within the novel, especially those concerning value and the mobility of property. The novel, for instance, contrasts African ignorance of exchange value with the pirate’s manipulation of that ignorance. This scenario parallels the contrast between Bob Singleton’s unusual ‘apathy about wealth management’ and the narrative arc of the conversion of Bob’s pirate wealth into clean money – in other words, the realization of the value of their property.

It might be expected that Defoe would play a big part in these proceedings, given his substantial number of writings that deal with precisely the conference themes, and that the period in which Defoe was writing featured the rise of a British credit-based economy and the most crippling stock market crash of the century. Yet I was surprised that Defoe’s huge corpus of economic works did not receive more attention in their own right. Clearly, Defoe’s novels still exert a powerful pull on the direction of eighteenth-century studies at both doctoral level and at professional level. Together however, for me these papers evidenced Defoe’s considerable pleasure in economic processes, despite – or even because – they were criminal or immoral. Intriguingly, that pleasure can be felt in the anatomy of such systems as well as in his writings’ investment (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the magical alchemy of speculation, exchange and transformation.

[1] See Robert D. Hume, ‘The Economics of Culture in London, 1660-1740’, Huntingdon Library Quarterly, 69 (2006), 487-533.