Call for Participants: Institutions of Literature

The AHRC-funded ‘Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900’ research network is pleased to invite expressions of interest from scholars working on the histories and practices of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century institutions and from stakeholders and curators who work in surviving institutions originating from this period.  During 2017, the network will run workshops in Glasgow, London and York and conduct a series of online discussions in order to explore collaboratively the ways in which the literary institutions of this era arose and operated.  The network will also consider the ongoing consequences of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century institutional practices and interventions for twenty-first-century institutions.

Between 1700 and 1900, institutions came to play integral roles in literary culture: teaching people how to value writing; providing sites for discussion and networks for circulation; serving as archival repositories; raising and disbursing money; inventing new genres; distributing laurels and condemnations; and authoring works and conducting readings.  However, these important mediations have hitherto been underexplored, in large part due to the scale of institutions’ operations.  Institutional histories tend to be more difficult to map than the histories of prominent individuals.  They commonly involve numerous agents, span multiple generations and rely on archives that are often incomplete, extremely extensive, or both.  To help to negotiate this complexity, the network will bring together scholars and institutional stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines to explore the ways in which different institutions mediated literature. Through doing so, it will seek to trace collaboratively common practices and ideologies.

The network’s three workshops will each take as a theme a major way of understanding institutional practices.  The first, ‘Institutions as Curators’, will be held at the Hunterian Museum’s new premises at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow on the 31st of March and the 1st of April 2017.  This workshop will explore the changing manners in which institutions have conceived of and organised both disciplinary knowledge and physical collections.  The second, ‘Institutions as Networks’, will be held at the Society of Antiquaries in London on the 13th and 14th of July 2017.  This meeting will examine how institutions have served to connect and organise groups of people and things, considering the hierarchies that inhere in such arrangements and the points of connection between different clusters and ideals.  The final workshop, ‘Institutions as Actors’, will be held at King’s Manor, York in December 2017.  This concluding event will examine institutional identities, looking at how ideas and practices embed themselves and considering the points at which institutions themselves – as opposed to their officers and stakeholders – become perceived to be capable of performing actions.

Each workshop will feature a combination of papers from participants, roundtable discussions and more open sessions designed to facilitate the sharing of perspectives and expertise.  The funding kindly provided by the AHRC will allow us to keep the workshops free of charge for all participants and will let us provide travel and accommodation for the speakers at each event.

If you are interested in being involved with the network’s discussions, please email an expression of interest to Matthew Sangster, Jon Mee and Jenny Buckley at institutionsofliterature@gmail.com.  Please include your name, affiliation(s) (if applicable), a brief biographical statement (of around 100 words) and a short description of the institutions and topics in which you are currently most interested (around 250 words).  Please also indicate whether you would like to give a twenty-minute paper on your work at one of the workshops, or whether you would rather speak as part of a roundtable discussion or another kind of collaborative session.

The deadline for submitting expressions of interest is Monday December 19th; we’ll get back to you swiftly after this date.

You can also follow the network’s activities on our website, http://institutionsofliterature.net/.

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