NEASECS 2018: Gods and Monsters
October 11-14
University of Rochester

Panel Proposals are still being accepted: DEADLINES EXTENDED

Panels Seeking Participants

New Approaches to Jane Austen

As we move beyond the bicentennial of Austen’s death, the impact of her work on literary and popular culture shows no sign of abatement.  This panel solicits papers that highlight the emerging methodologies being used to interpret Austen’s work, including fan studies, adaptation theory, masculinity studies, trauma theory, ecocriticism, animal studies, medical humanities, age studies, cultural and material cultural studies, and cognitive science, as well as new approaches examined under more established theoretical and critical approaches.  Panelists are requested not only to present their new work under one or more of these rubrics but to speculate on what they believe is most needed now and next in Austen studies.  Please send abstracts to Nora Nachumi at by the end of April.

Race and Enlightenment
This panel focuses upon the relationship between race and Enlightenment, with the aim of exploring cultural constructions of racial difference from a diverse range of perspectives. How is race portrayed in literature, art, music, theater, or film, and what does this reveal about society and politics in the eighteenth century? In what ways is race depicted in connection with the monstrous or the divine? What are the ongoing legacies of the Enlightenment in relation to race, difference, and normativity, and how have these conceptions changed? Papers welcome from across the disciplines, and in connection with gender, sexuality, indigenous, or disability studies. Please send abstracts to Adam Schoene at before the end of March.

Demonstrable Character and the Illegible Monster (FULL)

As global exchange expanded in the eighteenth century, the increased unknowability of individual persons contributed to anxiety in the public and private spheres. This panel invites papers interested in how literature represents, understands, and (most importantly) negotiates trust with new contacts, especially characters that society deems unreliable based on external characteristics. Further, the panel is interested in how literature proposes that a person becomes a knowable or readable character in this increasingly widening social stage. What characteristics make someone trustworthy? Conversely, what characteristics make someone unworthy of social trust, or worse, regarded as monstrous? Papers might discuss genres that engage travel narrative, sentimental picaresque, criminal biography, philosophical novels, or any other forms that represent monstrous interpersonal exchange or reveal the modes of verification of character that are becoming common throughout the century. Contact Allison Siehnel at

Kabbalah, Mysticism, Enlightenment

This panel seeks papers that explore aspects of kabbalah and other mystical traditions, especially as they bear on the intellectual and cultural history of the enlightenment. Presentations might focus on individual writers who were (or fancied themselves to be) practitioners of kabbalah (e.g. Francis Mercury van Helmont), on literary representations of kabbalah (e.g. in Cavendish's Blazing World), on kabbalah and philosophy (e.g. in the Cambridge Platonists, Lady Anne Conway, Spinoza, Leibniz), on millenarian movements influenced by kabbalah (e.g. Sabbateans), on concepts or figurations linked to kabbalah (e.g. Lilith), on redefinitions, distortions, and appropriations of kabbalah, etc.Send proposals to Will Cook Miller
Monstrous Birth as Political Paradigm: Slavery and the Human
Ideas of the grotesque, the inhuman, and the uncivilized were made ubiquitous by the eighteenth century writing and literature that underwrote, justified, and apologized for the violence of that period’s colonial dispossession. The rhetoric of abolition often turned these ideas against their purveyors: it argued that chattel slavery made monsters out its agents, administrators, and beneficiaries while it attempted to humanize enslaved Africans through sympathetic witnessing. As Thomas Clarkson puts it in his 1785 Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, abolitionists “endeavoured to restore to their fellow creatures the rights of nature, of which they had unjustly been deprived.� But pro-slavery rhetoric figured colonial planters as “slaves� whose interests were subordinate to the metropole. In the relays between these opposed positions is a preoccupation with legal, philosophical, and cultural definitions of humanity and inhumanity.

This panel begins from the premise that the monstrous birth of transatlantic slavery corresponds to the birth of biopolitics and marks a transition in the European political imagination. The definitions of political community that had treated political identity as a status were replaced by definitions that treated political identity as an innate feature or natural quality of the human. But while birth guaranteed political community for Europeans, in the context of the eighteenth-century colonial Caribbean, birth consigned enslaved Africans to perpetual objecthood—what Orlando Patterson has described as “natal alienation.� How, we ask, did the rise of this political system impact eighteenth-century ideas about humanity and the natural rights accorded to its members? What are the connections between birth made monstrous – a warrant for legal expulsion from the political community of persons and admission into the world of objects and property – and theories of right, political belonging, and contract? How did revolts and uprisings by Africans across the Atlantic world challenge or inflect ideas about humanity and its monstrous others over the course of the long eighteenth century?

Possible presentation topics might include: the status of sympathy in pro- and anti-slavery polemic; slavery, self-making, and narrative; the rhetoric of slavery as a condition of political subjection; the Black Legend, and cross-cultural accounts of colonial violence; legal codifications in the colonial Atlantic world; slavery and revolution; the Black Radical tradition in the long eighteenth century; the Haitian Revolution and its relationship to Enlightenment philosophy. Send proposals to Allison Cardon and Ryan Sheldon at

Periodical Writing as a Social Medium in the Eighteenth Century

In advertising a new edition of the Spectator in 1775, Samuel Johnson wrote: "The book thus offered to the public is too well known to be praised . . . it has now for more than half a century supplied the English nation, in a great measure, with principles of speculation, and rules of practice; and given Addison a claim to be numbered among the benefactors of mankind."

Other periodical works may not have achieved this degree of excellence in Johnson's view (or in anyone else's), but a great many of them sought to have an influence on taste and judgment or to supply a general perspective on life that readers might share. In this regard, perhaps, eighteenth-century periodical writing operated something like today's social media to create social groupings and reinforce points of view. Papers sought that either support or refute this proposition, with reference to any of the thousands of periodicals published during the long eighteenth century--from the Athenian Mercury to the Connoisseur. Robert DeMaria, Jr., Vassar College (

Gods, Beasts, and Monsters: Human and Nonhuman Identities in the Eighteenth Century

In the famous passage “Know then thyself” at the beginning of the second epistle of An Essay on Man, Pope draws on longstanding skeptical tradition to emphasize the contrarieties that constitute human nature, as humanity hovers “in doubt” between the status of “god” and “beast.”  The idea of mixture was associated with monstrosity in this era, and yet the categories on which essentialized identities depended were not inherently stable; this is seen particularly in the ongoing discussion about the nature of humanity in relation to the nonhuman animal. In this passage, for example, Pope shows that the most traditional definition of human nature depends on a potentially “monstrous” mixture of entities. Moreover, Pope himself was subject to a lifetime of critical assaults on his physical character as bordering animal and human, placing him in the category of the monstrous.  This panel invites papers on any aspect of animal-human identities or animal-human relationships in the long eighteenth century, focusing particularly on the idea of mixture, monstrosity, and religion in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

Please send proposals to Katherine Playfair Quinsey
Department of English, University of Windsor
Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4

"Unshap'd Monsters of a Wanton Brain": Henry Fielding and Farce in the 18th Century
Colley Cibber claimed that in his farces, Fielding had "laid Religion, Laws, Government, Priests, Judges and Ministers all under his Feet, and wrote up to an Act of Parliament to demolish the Stage." Many argue that Fielding deserves neither such praise nor such censure, and in fact, his were among many other anti-ministerial farces to achieve a limited success during the 1720s and 30s in London. For this panel, I seek papers exploring farce from any of a range of perspectives, including discussions of gender representation as well as national politics, and performance history as well as biography, in the farces, burlesques, and harlequinades of the early half of the century, in England or in Europe. Send abstracts to Melissa Bissonette at by April 1.

‘Monstrous’ Bodies in the Operas of Haydn and Mozart

This panel seeks submissions concerning musical monsters in the operas of Haydn and Mozart. Whether in the actual body of sea monsters, in Idomoneo & La fedeltà premiata, or the monstrous title character in Don Giovanni, monstrous bodies occupy pivotal roles in the operas of the classical period. Possible topics range from the musical depictions of these monsters to ‘monstrous’ deviations from conventional compositional techniques. Please send abstracts of 150 words to Alex Ludwig at by the end of March.

The Carnival-Grotesque and the Monstrous in Eighteenth-Century Literature

While eighteenth-­�century studies in literature have notably examined the carnivalesque and its iterations as an historical phenomenon, a politically subversive means of organization and expression, and its predisposition towards “inversion� and “reversal,� such work has illuminated a remarkable surfeit of as-yet-unexamined thematic topoi. One such theme concerns the grotesque body and its relationship to laughter. This carnival-­�grotesque is often discussed alongside—but not always equated with—the monstrous, as the comic and ridiculous potential of the former seems incompatible with the fear and gravity inspired by the latter.

Yet, following Catherine Clément’s maxim in The Newly Born Woman that “all laughter is allied with the monstrous,� the two concepts may be more inextricably bound than has been heretofore assumed. Furthermore, the notion of corporeal and “literary� gigantism and its importance to eighteenth-­�century scholarship further complicates such an inquiry. This panel welcomes any submissions that discuss the carnivalesque and its grotesqueries and how such work might inform (or intersect with) the monstrous. Please submit abstracts to Michael Pawluk at

The Devil Resurrected: Satan and the Age of Secular Humanism

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the emergence of secular humanism and scientific empiricism resulted in an explosive debate in England concerning the reality of the devil. Deists, free-thinkers, and skeptics expressed serious doubts about Satan, and many suggested that the devil may be nothing more than a symbol of human evil. Most historical studies, such as those by Jonathan Israel, Phillip C. Almond, and Jeffrey Bertram Russell, have thus identified the Enlightenment period as the “death of the devil.� This skepticism had severe moral ramifications for traditional ecclesiastics: a world without the devil could eventually translate to a world without God—and one in which humans, not Satan, are the true source of evil. Joseph Glanville and Henry More, foremost defenders of the devil and spirit world, feared that disbelief in the devil would set in motion a dangerous slippery slope leading eventually toward widespread atheism, the true devil. Whether the devil exists, and what form he takes (whether material or spiritual) was thus a matter of crucial importance during the Enlightenment.

Despite the claim that the devil necessarily expired during the Enlightenment, literature of the long eighteenth century continues to depict various iterations of the satanic character beyond the early modern representations of Milton and Bunyan. We find the devil—and remnants of the devil—in Defoe’s demonology tracts, in Richardson’s Lovelace and other rakish fiends, in Goethe’s Faust, and Lewis’s The Monk. Non-fiction sources, too, such as sermons, religious tracts, spiritual autobiographies, and periodicals, were fertile ground for demonic exploration. This panel invites submissions concerning any and all aspects of the devil, demons, or demonology in eighteenth-century literature and culture. Papers that consider how representations of the devil intersect with secular humanism are especially welcome. Please send submissions to Mira Sengupta at

Female Prodigies and Other (Potentially) Monstrous Exceptions

Katherine Philips’s epithet, “The Matchless Orinda,� suggests that the most acclaimed British woman writer of the seventeenth century had no peers. The nicknames of other literary or scholarly women of the period more subtly communicate the belief that they were not so much examples as exceptions. For instance, the Dutch linguist Anna Maria van Schurman was known as “the Virgin of Utrecht,� as though her celibacy ensured that the ensuing generations of girls would not inherit her talent. In contrast, her correspondent, the British educator Bathsua Makin, outlined a legacy of learned women so she could assure the parents of potential scholars at her academy that language learning would not make aberrations of their daughters. In light of this range of responses, this panel invites papers on the ways that gifted women from different cultures and disciplines characterized themselves or were represented by their admirers and adversaries.

Please send 150-word abstracts to Ann A. Huse at by April 10.

Monsters of the Carolean Theater

Restoration theater is often characterized as being licentious, frivolous, and vicious. Are its villains respectively monstrous? When one thinks of the monsters of drama, Iago and Richard III come up, but not Lord Foppington. Why? Who are the monsters of the Carolean era, what are their objectives, and what do they tell us about the culture of the Restoration?

Submissions should focus on particular characters from the drama roughly designated by the reign of Charles II (1660-1685). While the chronology does not much matter, the content does. Only “new� (to England) plays and characters should be considered; resurrected villains need not apply. Abstracts should suggest the historical relevance of their “monster,� and preference will be given to novel rather than stock characters.

Send abstract to Emerson Wright at

Gods and Monsters in Eighteenth-Century French Art and Literature
This panel is welcoming submissions on any aspect of “gods� or “monsters� in French art and literature from the long eighteenth century. Possible topics of consideration could be libertine monsters, the abject other, the rococo and the grotesque, feral subjects, devils and angels, and the divine. Please send 150-word abstracts to Paul Young at by March 30th.

Hidden Correspondences – Esotericism in the Age of Reason

This panel welcomes submissions concerning all aspects of Western Esotericism, an umbrella term describing wide-ranging traditions and practices that share the belief in hidden correspondences between the material world and the occult forces that influence our experience in that world. The eighteenth century, a time of enlightenment, also witnessed explorations of the shadowy regions of the soul. Indeed, scholars such as Wouter Hanegraaff and Jocelyn Godwin have argued that Western Esotericism’s pursuit of experiential, revelatory practices to discover salvific truth offers a counter narrative to the dominant Enlightenment call for the systematic implementation of reason. This panel invites papers exploring any aspect of the occult sciences in the 18th century, for example the aesthetic translation of these traditions and practices in literature, painting, or music, representations of occult projects to tap into the realm of the divine, artistic encounters with the creatures that inhabit the spaces of these hidden correspondences. Please send any submissions to
Gothic Austen: Within and Beyond Northanger Abbey
In 1816, thirteen years after Northanger Abbey was accepted by a London publisher, slated for “immediate publication,� and then unceremoniously shelved, without explanation, Jane Austen appended a brief prefatory note to her manuscript. “That any bookseller should think it worth while to purchase what he did not think it worth while to publish seems extraordinary,� she writes. With consummate dispassion, Austen retrospectively gothicizes her aborted authorial debut—turning the ''bookseller" into an unnamed figure of irrational malevolence. A cruel tempter, who suffered her to give up her first completed novel, he then doomed her to silence, by refusing to say why her words would never see the light of day. Although Austen anticipated that Northanger Abbey would soon come into print in 1816, her preface also carries a touch of the uncanny, as a declaration of the return of the repressed, resurrecting the manifesto of a young woman writer.

Moreover, this preface, no matter how brief, bears witness to the fact that Austen never fully repressed the gothic novel, and that the formative influence of this populist eighteenth-century genre continued to leave traces on her imagination, and on her subsequent work. In turn, the posthumous appearance of Northanger Abbey, to be marked in 2018, will color this, the 200th anniversary of its publication, with a suitably gothic melancholy.

With this in mind, I invite submissions for this panel on a wide range of possible themes, inclusive of, but not limited to: manifestations of the gothic in Austen’s work other than Northanger Abbey; critical readings of the gothic novels referenced in Emma; “gothicized� readings of Austen’s works other than Northanger Abbey; new critical approaches to Northanger Abbey itself; straight-faced and parodic homages to Northanger Abbey, in print and online (via blogs, vlogs, fan fiction, etc.); cinematic adaptations of Northanger Abbey; and innovative re-assessments of Austen’s reading practices, prior to and/or after her composition of Northanger Abbey, with particular attention to the gothic. Send detailed abstracts to: Dr. Irene Fizer, Associate Professor, Department of English, Hofstra University:

In keeping with NEASECS tradition, please note that panels and papers devoted to aspects of eighteenth-century studies not relating to the conference theme are also welcome.


MARCH 15th:Panel organizers should submit 150-word summaries of their topics to the conference organizers at Once a panel has been approved, it will be posted to the conference website. (deadline extended)

MARCH 30TH: Individual conferees should then submit paper abstracts (also of 150 words) to the panel organizers. (If you are submitting an abstract to more than one panel simultaneously, please let the panel organizers know this.)

APRIL 15TH: By this date, panel organizers should select their panelists and report the outcome of the selection process to both the conference committee and the individuals who have proposed papers (both those whose papers they are accepting and those whose papers will need to find another host panel).

MAY 1ST: All remaining/separate/other paper proposals should be submitted directly to the conference committee by this date so that they may be grouped into suitable panels in whatever way seems most appropriate.

The conference committee will announce the final roster of panels and panel-chairs by May 15th.
Giuseppe Vasi and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Remains of the Portico of the Temple of Jupiter and of the Temple of Fortune," by Courtesy Lombard Antiquarian Maps and Prints, Scarborough, Maine.

Edna Steeves Prize
for Best Graduate Student Paper

The Edna Steeves Prize is an award of $300 for the best paper delivered by a graduate student at the Annual Meeting. This prize, established in 1994, honors the memory of the late Edna L. Steeves of the English Department at the University of Rhode Island, a founding member who served as Secretary-Treasurer of NEASECS from 1989 until her death in 1995. The winner of the prize is selected by an interdisciplinary committee appointed by the President of NEASECS. Rules for submission of papers for the prize are announced on the Annual Meeting web site and in the materials distributed for the Annual Meeting.

John H. O'Neill Bursaries

The John H. O'Neill Bursaries are awards of up to $300 to graduate students to assist them with the cost of travel to the Annual Meeting. In 2002 the Society voted to name these bursaries in honor of John H. O'Neill of the English department of Hamilton College, who has served as editor of the NEASECS Newsletter since 1989. Up to six awards per year may be made. The chairs of the Annual Meeting decide to whom the awards are made. Graduate students who are presenting papers at the Annual Meeting and wish to apply for John H. O'Neill Bursaries should send their inquiries to the Annual Meeting chairs.


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